League One Gameweek 40: Blackpool To Defeat Plymouth?5 min read
Blackpool produced a clinical away performance in last week’s 4-1 win at Bradford.
Manager Terry McPhillips had deployed a diamond formation in six of the preceding seven encounters but that saw play become too congested centrally and ultimately detract from what they have been good at.
At Valley Parade, therefore, McPhillips showed that diamonds aren’t forever by reverting to a 4-2-3-1 and that gave them a lot more width. They showed, once again, that they can pose a serious threat from crosses into the box with the aerial prowess of Armand Gnanduillet, who was perhaps eager to prove a point to former manager Gary Bowyer.
— Blackpool FC – 🏡 #StayHomeSaveLives (@BlackpoolFC) March 25, 2019
With a forward in Nathan Delfouneso on the right of the attacking quartet and a right-footed winger in Liam Feeney on the left, as well as Everton loanee Anthony Evans showing talent, Pool had the wherewithal to go straight for the heart of Bradford’s defence on the counter-attack.
The midfield looks strong, too: strength of captain Jay Spearing’s challenges can give them the impetus to attack in transition, as we saw in the build-up to Matty Virtue-Thick’s impressive individual strike.
At the back, meanwhile, Curtis Tilt has formed a strong defensive pairing with Sheffield United loanee Ben Heneghan and goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi, who returned from international duty at Valley Parade, proved his value with a crucial penalty save.
Victory moved the Seasiders within two points of the play-off places; although that gap is now four points after Doncaster’s convincing victory on Tuesday.
Lameiras and Ladapo key for Argyle
Plymouth Argyle look likely to secure their League One status this season; they currently sit 14th, four points above the relegation zone.
However, the Greens possess a front-three that arguably belongs even higher in the table.
Freddie Ladapo is the division’s joint-sixth top scorer with 15 goals, Ruben Lameiras is skilful and creative in the final third while Graham Carey had been their most consistent performer over the preceding three campaigns – although the Irishman missed out through injury in the 2-2 draw with Bristol Rovers last time out.
Really frightening as to what it would be like if we lost both Carey and Ruben in the summer #pafc
— Josh Rogers (@Josh_Rogers22) March 23, 2019
If Argyle were able to find a way of bringing that exciting duo or trio into play more often, one might suggest they could become outside challengers for a top six berth. For various reasons though, they have had difficulties exerting the kind of control on games required to get Ladapo, Lameiras and Carey on the ball in key areas.
That might be partly because most of the available midfielders – notably David Fox, Yann Songo’o and Antoni Sarcevic – are masters of one trade rather than jacks of several and that has caused balance issues at times.
Additionally, because Plymouth do not play with wingers, the full-backs must be very athletic to cover a lot of ground – look at how important Jack Stacey and James Justin are to the way Luton play – and right now, they do not have similar options.
There’s also an overly conservative game management strategy. Plymouth have failed to win seven League One games after scoring the first goal – only Wycombe have done that more often– while the Greens have conceded 18 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches which is more than any other of their divisional rivals.
When they have a lead, they tend to sit on it but, for that approach to be successful, it is important to have an industrious front-man and very quick wide forwards, which Plymouth do not possess.
The hosts should therefore keep their feint play-off hopes intact with a victory here.
Tip: Blackpool to win and both teams to score
How will the season end? Read Gabriel’s League One Outright preview.
Read Gabriel’s weekend League Two preview.