This week we have been treated to the news that Carl Fletcher and his staff will continue their managerial work next season, an announcement that the club has already sold over 3000 memberships for next season and the revealing of our first pre-season friendly – an all west country affair with Yeovil Town.
But top of the list of news was the club announcing it’s first signing of the season. The Pilgrims form in the second half of the season that saved them from the drop, over the course of a full season would have earned them a mid-table finish. With our chairman eyeing promotion I look at the areas of the squad that will need to be strengthened over the summer to take us past the realms of mid-table.
The news of the arrival of striker Paris Cowan-Hall from Blue Square Bet South champions Woking earlier this week was welcomed by the large majority of Argyle fans. During the whole of the 2011-12 season we severely lacked goals. I really admire Warren Feeney, but as hard a worker he is, he is unlikely to get more than 10 goals in a season. Nick Chadwick seems to have gone off the boil since an emphatic first few weeks back with the club in November and Matt Leconite is just too young to be playing in the majority of first teams games.
Cowan-Hall scored 17 goals in 34 appearances for Woking last season, so could prove a very shrewd signing by Fletcher. Of course he was plying his trade two leagues below us, but he has played League Football before so the 21-year-old might find the step-up easier than some expect. That being said League Two is a very physical league and many Argyle fans, including myself, would like to see Fletcher bring in a big target man to play up-front alongside Cowan-Hall.
In the second half of the season our defence was remarkably solid, we won some important games 1-0 thanks to a great back four of Durrell Berry, Maxime Blanchard, Darren Purse and Robbie Williams. There is no need to replace any of these players as they work brilliantly together, but I feel that bringing in some cover for the aging Darren Purse would be a good idea as after having a great 2010-11 season, Curtis Nelson disappointed a little last season.
The weakest part of our squad, by far, is the midfield. Playing Paul Wotton and Simon Walton together seems to make us very imobile in the centre of the park and it was often noted that we got played around by the opposition in midfield. Combining one of the two with somebody more energetic, like Luke Young, would see us move the ball up the pitch more, not just side to side. However Fletcher likes to play Young out wide and although Hourihane has the odd moment of brilliance, he appears too negative in his play for me, often choosing to pass backwards rather than forwards!
That said though, Fletcher has stated he plans on changing the playing style of the team. Every point was a prisoner last season, and although very ugly the negative mentality ultimately worked. If possible I would like to see Conor Clifford return on loan from Chelsea. He was a real powerhouse when here on loan eighteen months ago and his workrate in the heart of the field was impressive and what I think we need.
On the wings last season we had Ashley Hemmings and Alex MacDonald on loan. Both have returned to their parent clubs but Hemmings has since been released. I would love to have him back as he produced moments of brilliance. He needs to work on his crossing but if he did improve on them he has the potential to be a great winger. Joe Lennox appears to be technically gifted as well as fast but is in serious need of putting some muscle on as he gets pushed off the ball far too easily. Onismor Bhasera can also play well on the wing but it is possible he will be sold this summer whilst I think Luke Young is suited to other areas of the field over the wing. Of those three, apart from Lennox, we lack pace which is something I am sure we will bring into the squad over the summer.
One thing is for sure, it is going to be an interesting summer in terms of signings for the Pilgrims. After the last few seasons many Argyle fans would welcome a relaxing season of mid-table ‘mediocrity’ with open arms, but with James Brent making noises about promotion I am interested to see who will be bought in and how much money Fletcher is given to work with.
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