Plymouth Argyle faces broader challenges post Middlesbrough. . .
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Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle faces broader challenges post Middlesbrough setback.

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Plymouth Argyle suffered a significant setback when manager Steven Schumacher departed the club in December.

It appeared that much good work had been undone, and that the pain in Devon was far from over.

Championship opponents Middlesbrough snatched forward midfielder Finn Azaz, and Argyle have yet to fully recover.

The brilliance of Finn Azaz

Azaz thrived in green and white, both in League One and the Championship.

On and off the field for Plymouth, he developed a great bond with players such as Morgan Whittaker and Ryan Hardie, and he quickly embraced the team’s chemistry.

Prior to joining Argyle on loan from Aston Villa, Azaz had a decent seven goals and seven assists in League Two with Newport County.

Azaz then rose to the occasion both times when promoted to a higher level, scoring 17 goals in his debut season in Plymouth.

He was about to take Argyle one step further in their romantic comeback to the second division when Villa came in and broke the bubble.

Stoke City seduced Schumacher away, Azaz was sold to Boro in order to return to Villa, and all of the other loanees were also recalled by their respective clubs.

Luke Cundle and Kaine Kesler-Hayden, while both excellent football players, did not have the same impact as the Irishman, and the team continues to suffer as a result.

Ian Foster brought in his own man to replace the vacancy, but it didn’t work out, underscoring Azaz’s importance to this Argyle club.

Devine a struggling Tottenham Hotspur loanee

In the January transfer window, Foster signed two young Spurs players on loan: Ashley Phillips and Alfie Devine. Both of them have had up and down seasons at Home Park.

Devine showed potential in his first few games, assisting Ryan Hardie’s first of two goals in a debut victory over Cardiff City.

The Spurs player set up Mickel Miller the following month in Argyle’s dramatic 2-2 draw with Coventry City, but he did not contribute again in the next eight games.

It all came to a head for the Green Army when he was sent out in a 1-0 defeat to Bristol City, which proved to be the final straw for boss Foster.

Devine has clearly fallen short of Azaz’s expectations, and Argyle has missed the connection between the midfield and the offense.

Whittaker was well-deserving of his place in the EFL Team of the Year, but he and Hardie haven’t been as productive without Azaz.

That creative option has been lacking, as Whittaker can only give solo moments of magic so frequently without an Azaz-like character.

Replacing Schumacher and everything he brought to the table is a crucial assignment for this summer, but so is finding a player who can work well with Whittaker and Hardie, as Azaz did.

 

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