Plymouth Argyle manager Steven Schumacher experimented with a new 3-4-3 formation in an encouraging 1-1 pre-season draw with Swansea City at Home Park.
Schumacher is looking to try out a tactical variation to give his players ‘another string to their bow’ for the forthcoming 2022/23 League One campaign.
Argyle had five players in a line defensively at times when they came under against a slick Swansea side, who dominated possession throughout the game.
However, wing-backs Joe Edwards and Mickel Miller, in particular, had good success at getting forward and posing an attacking threat.
Argyle have primarily played a 3-1-4-2 system since Ryan Lowe became manager in 2019, and Schumacher largely continued with that tactical approach after taking charge last December, but now he is considering another option for certain games.
Schumacher told Plymouth Live: “It’s a variation of a 3-4-3. When you haven’t got the ball against top quality opposition like that (Swansea), you can go to a 5-4-1 which gives you a little bit more security.
“We are going to come up against teams this season who have got huge finances and huge resources in this division and we are going to have to be secure behind the ball. But I still thought that even with five and four and a one we were a threat on the break when we actually made some patterns of play.
“I lost count of the amount of good crosses and good positions that Mickel Miller got into, and he’s our wing-back, so he’s not playing in a back five, he was up in their final third.”
He continued: “It’s a front three at times. There will be different styles, there will be different teams that require us to go with two centre-forwards, or we go with one and two 10s.
“So it’s another thing that we have wanted to work on and see how it develops. Everybody knows that we have played 3-5-2 for four years.
“We have been having a little look at this system. We knew it was going to be needed against Swansea. It will probably be needed against Bristol City (at home on Saturday).
“But we know how we play and we will go to that as well. It’s just having another string to the bow for the players.”
Despite the emphasis on defensive resilience against Swansea, Schumacher still saw his side fall behind in only the sixth minute with a terrific volley from Joel Piroe.
The Pilgrims failed to clear their lines properly and the ball looped up into the air before dropping for Piroe to blast the ball past Callum Burton, the Argyle goalkeeper.
Burton was between the posts for the whole game, with scholar Zak Baker unused on the bench as cover for him, because Mike Cooper missed the match due to what the club described as personal reasons.
Piroe almost doubled Swansea’s lead on the stroke of half-time with a 20-yard shot which Burton did extremely well to push wide for a corner.
There was another good low stop from Burton early in the second period, this time from Olivier Ntcham, as Swansea pressed for a second goal.
However, Argyle posed problems of their own for the visitors, not least through their newest recruit Finn Azaz, playing just a day after signing on a season-long loan from Aston Villa.
The 21-year-old midfielder twice went close to equalising with well-struck shots from outside the Swansea box after being one of six substitutions for the Pilgrims in the 62nd minute, but on both occasions his attempts were just too high.
Another of the changes shortly after the hour mark had seen Ryan Hardie come on for Niall Ennis as the lone striker, and Argyle’s 2021/22 top scorer came up with a very late equaliser.
Ryan Law, on for Miller at left wing-back, played the ball forward for Hardie to run onto and although he stumbled slightly he was still able to clip the ball over Swansea ‘keeper Andy Fisher and into the net.
Schumacher said: “It was a real tough game, which we knew it was going to be. I don’t know what the possession stats were but I’m guessing they had a large majority of it.
“But they do that to the majority of Championship teams that they come up against every week. I think our lads were defensively well organised.
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“It wasn’t perfect, we could get better on certain things in the way we go and press, how we try and stop the opposition, and what we do when we nick it back, but overall as our first real live test as a pre-season game it was encouraging.
“You can’t really stop Swansea having the ball, with the way that they play, and the rotations that they have with their team. So it’s difficult to go and lock on man for man.
“If they get you in one-v-one situations they have got real good players that can hurt you so you have got to be organised and be disciplined, and then when you get your opportunities when they are under pressure – like we saw a few times in the first half when we nicked it on the edge of their box – you have got to make the most of it.
“We just messed up the final pass at times. Like Joe Edwards did great and then passed it straight back in their penalty box. That’s just rustiness. Hopefully, as the pre-season continues we will get better at punishing teams when we win it back.”
ARGYLE: Callum Burton; Joe Edwards (Finley Craske 62 mins), James Wilson (Oscar Halls 77 mins), Dan Scarr (Brandon Pursall 77 mins), Macaulay Gillesphey (Jack Endacott 85 mins), Mickel Miller (Ryan Law 62 mins); Jordan Houghton (Caleb Roberts 77 mins), Alfie Lewis (Adam Randell 62 mins); Matt Butcher (Finn Azaz 62 mins), Danny Mayor (Luke Jephcott 62 mins), Niall Ennis (Ryan Hardie 62 mins). Substitute (not used): Zak Baker
SWANSEA: Andy Fisher; Nathan Wood (Joel Cotterill 77 mins), Harry Darling (Brandon Cooper 77 mins), Kyle Naughton (Ryan Manning 62 mins); Joel Latibeaudiere (Kyle Joseph 70 mins), Jay Fulton (Dan Williams 77 mins), Matt Grimes (Ollie Cooper 77 mins), Matty Sorinola (Nathanael Ogbeta 62 mins); Joel Piroe (Cameron Congreve 77 mins), Olivier Ntcham (Jamie Paterson 62 mins), Michael Obafemi (Liam Cullen 62 mins). Substitute (not used): Lewis Webb.
REFEREE: Lee Swabey
ATTENDANCE: 3,912 (291)
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