League One Club-by-Club Preview for 2017/2018: MK Dons

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2016/2017

Record Last Season + Quick Summary: 

League One - 12th; W 16 / D 13 / L 17 / F 60 / A 58 / Pts 61

Dons’ home support had to wait what felt like an eternity to see their charges win in Buckinghamshire. In fact, it coincided with Robbie Neilson’s first game in post against AFC Wimbledon… in December. By contrast, they had established one of the better away records in the third tier at that juncture to stave off the threat of the drop. Karl Robinson’s tactical predictability, coupled with several underperforming senior pros, had finally seen the board relieve him of his duties. In 2017, their overall form improved and they rallied to a top-half finish.

Top Goalscorer: Kieran Agard (12 goals in 33 starts/2,875 minutes)

Top Creator: Ben Reeves (4 assists in 26 starts/2,403 minutes)

2017/2018

Manager/Head Coach: Robbie Neilson; another young manager made his way to stadium:mk. The structure and geography of the club is a solid, nurturing proving ground and patience at board level is in relative abundance. Neilson possessed an excellent record at Hearts and it is testament to the current comparative standings of the top tier in Scotland and the attraction of the third tier in England that not too many eyebrows were raised south of the border when his appointment was eventually confirmed, replacing Karl Robinson. Unlike his predecessor, Neilson has shown willingness from the outset to change tactics and he immediately won over the faithful with a ‘Dons derby’ triumph. Tends to go about his business in an understated manner but by the same token, isn’t short of confidence: he says the stated aim for 2017/2018 is to win the title.

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Big things are expected from Robbie Neilson; his managerial career thus far has been on a continuing upward curve

Ins: Wieger Sietsma (Heerenveen), Conor McGrandles (Norwich City), Ousseynou Cissé (Tours), Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen), Gboly Ariyibi (Nottingham Forest on loan) & Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan).

Outs: Daniel Powell (Northampton Town), Dean Bowditch (Northampton Town), Kabongo Shimanga (Boston United), Darren Potter (Rotherham United), Nicky Maynard (Aberdeen), George Baldock (Sheffield United), David Martin (free agent) & Charlie Burns (free agent).

Predicted First XI & Shape:

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Tactics: For the upcoming campaign, Neilson has the flexibility of also employing wing-backs but a further signing may need to come on in the left flank to get the best out of that particular system. Stalwart Dean Lewington is still a threat; Ethan Ebanks-Landell is physically imposing and versatile to boot, possessing the quality to step in front of the defence and act as a shield to nip counters in the bud. Player of the Season George Williams will make raids down the right, with Ousseynou Cissé the anchor between the first and second transition. Chuks Aneke is one of the most explosive talents in the league and his dynamism is vital to ensure what will sometimes appear as a front four are not isolated.

Gboly Ariyibi has pace to burn but much more importantly, can dribble and glide past defenders with either foot. He will ably supported by the late runs into the area of Kieran Agard whilst Robbie Muirhead will adopt a central role, acting as a possible focal point for attacks and to create space for Agard and Peter Pawlett.

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Chuks Aneke is a difference maker; his fitness in 2017/2018 will be a vital cog in ensuring the ‘machine’ runs smoothly

Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Gunning for automatic promotion. Most of the summer signings have come very recently and MK Dons’ business thus far has been under-the-radar but impressive by the same token. Much of the current squad is on the younger side and the academy keeps churning out promising youngsters. Neilson’s men arguably lack ‘star power’ but that is no substitute for teamwork and there are plenty of names to excite the fans and terrorise the opposition if you know where to look. Equally as importantly, the physicality of the defence has been carefully looked at and the overall weakness at set pieces should be consigned to history. They could still do with one or two more additions, particularly at left wing-back and a positive advanced forward… but there are enough individual talents now to suggest that their short hiatus from the Championship could come to an end.

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