Football League World’s Ryan Evans looks at how important Graham Carey is to Plymouth Argyle – and why he needs to be given a new contract ASAP.
Every team has the player that makes their side tick; the one that is indispensable to their identity and form.
Taking a few more well known examples from recent years, at Barcelona it would be Andres Iniesta or at Real Madrid Toni Kroos.
They are both responsible for dictating their side’s play – for driving the team forward – for picking out the pass and often for ending up with being the difference between their team and their opponents.
That man on the south coast is Graham Carey, and he’s shown already in his 14-month stay that he can single-handedly change games and step up to the plate when the team needs him most.
Let’s delve into the stats then. The Pilgrims started slowly this season, and so did Carey. He went his first four games without being involved in a goal – his second worst drought since joining Plymouth. Since then, however, he’s looked incredible, both statistically and in just his general play, with seven goals and six assists so far, including five assists and three goals in his last four games.
His performance against Yeovil Town in particular – a 4-1 win for the team from Devon and one of the best performances that I’ve seen from them in a long time – was simply magnificent and left the Green Army purring for more. He ended up with a goal and two assists, and could have got more.
Eleven goals and eleven assists from his debut campaign earnt him the division’s player of the season despite the club falling short on promotion, but if he keeps up on his current record, stays injury free and plays every league game, he’ll end up being involved in 42 goals – an incredible record that seems impossible.
Okay, so it’s likely he’ll go through a dip, but if you take say an eight game period where he isn’t involved in a goal, then he’ll still have scored or set up 27 goals this season, bettering the 26 from the last campaign.
It is, especially for non-Plymouth fans, pretty easy to think that Carey is a one-trick pony – just passing the ball about and waiting for the right moment to put the defenders to the sword – but this season he’s added another dimension to his play.
He’s operated from the left-hand side at times, after being marked out of the game in the 3-0 defeat to title rivals Luton Town. The 27-year old has used his surprising pace to terrorise the full-backs and his incredible skill to leave them for dead, allowing him to either use his strong left foot to get a cross into the box or cut in and get a shot off.
Carey has come back into the middle in recent weeks, but been just as deadly – as highlighted earlier he’s got a goal and four assists in the last three games.
Another one of his new ‘weapons’ is his goalscoring – he’s scored two more than he had at this point last season and has been involved in 54% of the goals that Plymouth have scored, scoring 32%. With David Goodwillie & Jordan Slew struggling to get on the scoresheet and Arnold Garita & Ryan Brunt out injured, goals from midfield could be very necessary.
It’s a common criticism of the club amongst the Green Army that they’ve let their key players contracts run down and only renewed them for a single year – necessary during the times of financial turmoil, but perhaps not now and especially in the case of the 27-year old. Whilst Carey’s initial contract was for 12 months, it had a clause on it allowing the club to renew it should he play a certain number of games, which of course he did.
It’s happened before too many times. Last season’s captain Curtis Nelson, the club’s key player in many years gone by, left the club after his contract expired and had received plenty of offers from elsewhere and eventually left on a free. The same happened with Carl McHugh, the 2015-16 Argyle player of the season. He had agreed in principle to renew his expired contract, before getting a better offer from Motherwell.
But with just another eight months to go on the current deal, now is exactly the time when Adams needs to be offering the Irishman a new contract that would mean the latter half of this season, which could well be a title race, can be given 100% of his focus.