Blackburn Rovers (H) | Schumacher's Preview
In football, fairly obviously, everyone wants to play well and win games. Equally, playing poorly and losing is far from ideal.
There exists an acceptable hinterland where playing poorly and winning is considered a satisfactory characteristic, mainly by pundits for whom the manufacture of old rope is a profitable sideline.
Argyle, of late, have been inhabiting a fourth category, that of a side playing well, but not converting their high levels of performance to points.
Exhibits A, B and C come in the form of 2-1 defeats in the Sky Bet Championship, to Southampton and Birmingham City respectively, and a 4-2 reverse against Premier League Crystal Palace, in the Carabao Cup. The first two games featured the Greens’ conceding decisive goals in stoppage time, the latter saw them 2-0 up and dominating before Palace threw on some top tier talent to turn the game around.
In the short term, losing games is very frustrating and dispiriting. However, in a 46-game season, the knowledge that your squad is able to go toe-to-toe with some of the best the division has to offer is more sustainable than squeaking out the odd scruffy 1-0 win.
All this is why Steven Schumacher continues to feel positive about the season ahead. Four games played, four points earned – and 126 yet to play for.
“I think it's been a positive start,” said Schumacher. “Ideally, we would like to have two more points and to be in the next round of the cup, but that wasn't to be.
“The performances have been good. They haven't been brilliant yet, but I think we're getting better. From the first game against Huddersfield to where we're at now with our performance level, it’s a lot higher. Now we just need to make sure that the performances that we keep putting in churn out some points.
“We've shown that we can compete. That was the message; that was what was always in the back of my mind over the summer. We needed to put a squad together that can compete with the big teams in this league. I feel that we've done that.
“We're also trying a new system, which we knew was going to take time to click into gear, but I think everyone can see that there are positive signs. We obviously need to be a bit more clinical in both boxes, do better at both ends of the pitch, but that was always going to be the case. We were never going to come into the Championship and be perfect straight away.
“We'll keep working on the training grounds, keep trying to get it right. Most importantly, we’ll keep being positive. That's what I wanted us to be, and that's how we've played.”
Next up for Argyle is Blackburn Rovers, at Home Park. Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side have seven points from their quartet of games, and smashed a club record in the week as they won 8-0 at Harrogate Town in Carabao Cup.
Any dip in Argyle’s performances is likely to see them punished against a slick Rovers outfit, but a continuation of the recent standards will surely see another sold-out Home Park treated to a competitive, attacking display.
“I really like what I've seen of them,” said Schumacher, of Blackburn. “They're a really young team; they've got an average age just slightly below us. They play with really good energy. The style of play isn't too dissimilar to ours. They like to pass the ball and there's lots of movement from different people in different areas of the pitch, and they're really good on the counter-attack.
“They've scored five of their six [league] goals on transition. We need to make sure that we're aware of that. Try and do well with the ball, not be careless with it because they've got a huge threat when they break. They've got speed, again, not too dissimilar to us.
“They’ve got good players, established championship players. Now they've become a solid Championship team. They went really close last year and had a real successful season.
“We have to be positive with what we're doing, and get our attributes right with what we're all about, especially here at Home Park. Try and play at a good tempo ourselves and show some quality in the key moments.
“We know it's going to be a really tough game. I think it should be an exciting game - and hopefully we can come out on top of it.”