September 12th 2020. The day the footballing world has been waiting for. The Premier League and the EFL announced in July that the 2020/21 season will be underway very shortly. Ahead of the new season, I have decided to take a look into the future of the 24 teams making up League One for the new campaign, with an in depth look at what each team has to offer for the coming year. Second on the list, is Glyn Hodges’ AFC Wimbledon.

 

  • The Club

The 2020/21 season will be AFC Wimbledon’s 19th season in their history and the fifth consecutive season in League One.

Their last venture outside of League One was their Play Off winning campaign from 2015/16, when Neal Ardley led his side into League One by sneaking into 7th position in the league, besting Accrington Stanley 3-2 in the Semi Final, and them overcoming Plymouth at Wembley to secure their place in League One.

The 2016/17 season was AFC Wimbledon’s first ever venture into League One, and they defied expectations by finishing in a comfortable 15th spot. 2017/18 season followed suit, as the Wombles finished the season in 18th position.

The season before last was a struggle for Wimbledon, as they replaced Neal Ardley with Wally Downes and only survived by the skin of their teeth in 20th.

Last season was another struggle, with Wimbledon extremely glad that the season finished through PPG, as they sat just three points above the relegation zone in 20th.

AFC Wimbledon, on paper, have regressed since their promotion from League Two four years ago, and will be hoping to break that curse next season.

However, credit has to be given to the Wimbledon board, players and staff for consistently keeping themselves away from relegation.

With a budget more suited to League Two, Wimbledon will be hoping for a season of grit and determination from their players once more.

 

  • The Gaffer

Glyn Hodges is heading into his second season with AFC Wimbledon, having taken over from Wally Downes in September of 2019.

Hodges only previous managerial experience was as a caretaker on two occasions for Barnsley, and a five-year spell with the Stoke U23’s.

For his first senior coaching position, Glyn has done very well to keep his side up after their dreadful opening to the season.

Currently working with a 31% win ratio from his 29 games in charge, Glyn has exceeded the expectations of him when he was announced as Wally Downes’ replacement.

It’s not the just the managerial side that Hodges has an affiliation to Wimbledon with, as he was part of the old Wimbledon side before their dissolve in 2004.

Hodges played 232 for Wimbledon between 1980 and 1987, scoring 49 goals in the process.

His career took him all across England, with lengthily spells at Watford and Sheffield United, whilst also spending two seasons in Finland and Hong Kong.

A full Wales international, Hodges will be looking to secure Wimbledon’s place in League One for another season, and in an interview with the club website, Hodges revealed that he is aiming to be smart when it comes to recruitment, and he is determined to put the right players on the pitch this season.

 

  • The Squad

Since the start of the 2019/20 season, AFC Wimbledon have used the same formation for 33 of their 35 league games this season, with the 3-5-2 being both Downes and Hodges favored formation.

On two occasions this season they worked with a 4-5-1 and a 5-4-1, but the 3-5-2 was their dominant set up. So, for the squad set up, I will only be looking at the 3-5-2 for player progression. All of the formations were found using Transfermarkt.

Looking at the 3-5-2 formation, 21-year-old Nathan Trott was the Wombles first choice goalkeeper until February, as the West Ham loanee took the gloves as Wimbledon looked to keep their heads above water.

However, he did miss the three of the first seven league games this season, with 23-year-old Nikola Tzanev and 22-year-old Joe McDonnell donning the gloves for those three.

Trott was consistent for the rest of the campaign, until 29-year-old Joe Day was loaned in from Cardiff until the end of the season, playing the final nine games.

All the following stats were sourced through WhoScored. Trott made 95 saves in 23 league appearances for Wimbledon this season, showing that he was a very busy keeper for Wimbledon, with 52 of those being inside the penalty area.

Joe Day kept three clean sheets in his nine games for Wimbledon, making 28 saves. Two competent goalkeepers from Wimbledon this season, but they’ll need to find a permanent goalkeeper next season.

Defensively, 24-year-old Terell Thomas was Wimbledon’s most capped defender this season, with 36 appearances and one goal to his name. 28-year-old Luke O’Neil is more accustomed to the right back position, but played only two of his 34 games in that position, with 21 of those at CB, and 11 at right midfield.

A versatile player who also got one goal and four assists. 21-year-old Paul Kalambayi was third choice in the back three this season, rotating with 28-year-old Rod McDonald early in the season, and 21-year-old Mads Bech Sorensen for the end.

Kalambayi, McDonald and Sorensen were unable to be an attacking threat this season. 23-year-old Ryan Delaney was pivotal for Wimbledon up until January, scoring twice for them in the league, before joining Bolton for the rest of the season.

24-year-old Will Nightingale was the captain for all of September, but didn’t feature for the rest of the season after that. Stats wise, it was Terell Thomas and Luke O’Neil who were the easiest to compare.

Thomas made 35 tackles and 53 interceptions in his 31 league appearances, whilst O’Neil made 56 tackles and 50 interceptions.

O’Neil was more solid with his defensive duties as a last man defender, however he was dribbled past 16 times last season, so was susceptible to making a mistake here and there.

On the right-hand side, 30-year-old Scott Wagstaff was the makeshift winger for the majority of the season, once Luke O’Neil was moved to Centre-Back.

He made 30 appearances in all competitions, scoring twice. 23-year-old Shane McLoughlin, predominantly an attacking midfielder, started 12 games one the right-hand side this season, scoring one goal for Wimbledon. In his 26 league games for Wimbledon, Scott Wagstaff only attempted 13 shots, with 10 of those coming from inside the penalty area.

Kwesi Appiah has left Wimbledon after three years at the London club.
Image Credit: AFC Wimbledon

A player more known for his dribbling than his finishing, he only made 7 successful dribbles for the club this year.

It was not a good season for Wagstaff, who recorded only a 6.42 rating across the 26 games. Shane McLoughlin was equally non-existent in the right-hand side, making only 8 shots this year.

Compare that to the Accrington piece, where right winger Jordan Clark had 81 shots. A more attacking threat than both McLoughlin and Wagstaff combined.

On the left, 20-year-old Nesta Guinness-Walker was the main contributor this season, making 27 appearances in total with all of them being on the left side, scoring once.

19-year-old Paul Osew was another dangerous outlet, making 23 appearances and scoring once as well.

Two left backs by trade, the left-hand side of the field was seen more as a defensive set up compared to the right. Whilst bombing up and down the wing, Guinness-Walker was also able to make 33 tackles and 12 interceptions, whilst also completing 12 of his dribbles this season.

Osew wasn’t as defensively solid tackling wise as Nesta, making only 16 successful tackles, but was more aggressive going forward with 20 dribbles in fewer games. Defensively sound on the left-hand side, need more attacking threat on the other wing.

In the midfield, 26-year-old Callum Reilly was the most consistent performer, scoring five goals with three assists in 35 games, rotating between roaming midfielder and holding midfielder.

20-year-old Anthony Hartigan made 32 appearance in the center of midfield this season, but wasn’t as much of an attacking threat compared to Reilly, going the season without scoring a goal.

Mitch Pinnock was originally signed as a winger; however, he spent the entire season playing centrally or just behind the striker. With three goals in 29 games, the ex-Dover attacker would have hoped for a slightly more productive season.

21-year-old Max Sanders was loaned in from Brighton, making 22 appearances in the centre of midfield. With a goal and two assists to his name, Sanders will be looking for a new loan next season.

31-year-old journeyman Anthony Wordsworth played 10 games for Wimbledon last season without a goal, whilst Dylan Connolly and Jack Rudoni both had sixth month spells away from the club, struggling to perform in League One.

Stats wise, Reilly, Hartigan and Pinnock were the standout midfielders. Reilly had 23 shots in the league for Wimbledon this season, finding the net on four occasions, whilst also completing 63% of his passes this season.

However, he did make 44 key passes, so was a big outlet in the Wimbledon midfield this season. Hartigan’s passing range was stronger than Reilly’s, attempting more passes and having a higher completion rate in 69%.

His key passes total was lower than Reilly’s, so his range was more focused on keeping possession of the ball. Pinnock had 33 shots from his 25 league appearances this season, so he was attempting to score but 67% of those were outside the box.

His passing game was solid at 67%, with 60 key passes this season. Very strong until the final third.

Up front for Wimbledon, Joe Pigott was the leading appearance player this season, playing 39 games in all competitions, scoring nine times with three assists along the way.

Wimbledon’s star man only joined them for 6 months, but 21-year-old Marcus Forss was the shining light at the beginning of the season, getting 12 goals in 20 appearances for Wimbledon this season after his loan spell from Brentford.

29-year-old Kwesi Appiah played 23 times for Wimbledon this season, scoring four goals in the process. Struggled to dislodge Forss and Pigott early on.

22-year-old Michael Folivi played 13 times for Wimbledon this season, but could only score once as he struggled for consistent games up front.

Adam Roscrow started only one game this season, but came off the bench 10 times as he looked for his first goal in English football. It never came.

It was really only Joe Pigott, Marcus Forss and Kwesi Appiah who looked dangerous going forward for Wimbledon this season. Pigott had 73 shots for Wimbledon this season, with 72% of those coming from inside the penalty area. The 6ft1 striker also completed 59% of his dribbles this season, showing that he can be more than a target man.

Forss was Wimbledon’s clinical outlet this season, scoring 11 goals from his 41 shots on goal, however he did struggle to hold the ball up and was disposed a lot in the air. More of a grounded attacker, but incredible finishing this season. Kwesi Appiah played second fiddle to Forss and Pigott, averaging only 1 shot per game this season. Averaged a 6.49 rating in the league, but struggled to add to his four goals from the campaign.

 

  • The Transfers

AFC Wimbledon haven’t been overly productive so far in the short time that the transfer window has been open, but they have acted quickly to add to their growing issues on the right-hand side of the field.

Cheye Alexander has arrived at Plough Lane on a reported one-year deal, for a free transfer from National League side Barnet.

He spent the whole season playing right back for Barnet, so a switch to a back four could be in the offing for Wimbledon this year, or it could see Alexander playing out on the right in a 5-3-2 set up.

In terms of outgoings, 25-year-old Mitch Pinnock has signed a one-year deal with Scottish Premership side Kilmarnock and leaves Wimbledon after two seasons with the club.

Pinnock was announced as one of a number of players released by Wimbledon at the end of this season, but is currently the only one with a new club.

The biggest casualty on the list is Scott Wagstaff, who leaves the club after two seasons in London.

Anthony Wordsworth has also left the club after two seasons with the club, after signing from Southend in the summer of 2018.

Appiah was also announced as part of the ‘unretained’ list, leaving the club after three years of League One football.

Also leaving the club this season was Rod McDonald, 21-year-old Tommy Wood who has spent the last few seasons out on loan in the National League system.

Defenders Reuben Collins and Kyron Stabana have also been left go after their loan spells with Cork City and Basingstoke ended.

Three midfielders have also been let go in the form of Dylan Connolly, Finley MacNab and Ossama Ashley.

 

  • The Problem Areas?

When analysing the key set up that both Downes and Hodges worked with this season, and basing this section on the continuation of the 3-5-2 formation, there are a few areas that need support.

Goalkeeper wise, the loan deals for Nathan Trott and Joe Day have expired, meaning that the club is left with only one first choice goalkeeper for the new season.

Nikola Tzanev played the first two games of the season, so could be trusted by Hodges next season. A young loan or U23 promotion is desperately needed.

Defensively, Luke O’Neil, Terell Thomas, Paul Kalambayi and Will Nightingale are still with Wimbledon for the new season, but with the release of Rod McDonald; Ryan Delaney and Mads Bech Sorenson’s loan deals expiring,

Wimbledon are looking slightly short at the back.

They do have 18-year-old Archie Proctor to call on, so don’t expect to see centre back as a key issue straight away.

On the right, new signing Cheye Alexander will surely be pushing for first team football this year, whilst Shane McLoughlin is still in the building.

May look at a more attacking player for next year though. On the left, Nesta Guinness-Walker and Paul Osew are still going for the next season. Defensively sound on the left-hand side, shouldn’t be an area of concern.

The midfield was Wimbledon’s stacked area last season. Callum Reilly and Anthony Hartigan have been secured for another year, whilst Jack Rudoni is back permanently after his loan with Tonbridge.

However, Mitch Pinnock’s trip to Scotland and the release of Wordsworth, Connolly, MacNab and Ashley does leave Wimbledon light in midfield.

Expect movement here this summer. Going forward, Joe Pigott has been signed up for another year which is a big plus for Wimbledon.

However, their second striker currently is Adam Roscrow, signed by Cardiff Met Uni last year.

No goals for him last season, and with Appiah’s release and Forss’ loan ending, this is a key area for Wimbledon to invest in.

 

  • The Fixes?

I’m not suggesting by any means that I am a scouting guru who has an extensive knowledge of the world of football, but I do like the process of the transfer windows, and trying to be someone who can identify talent when it becomes available.

For each team, after identifying the problem areas, I want to try and see if I can find any players for a specific set of positions who could be suited to each club, based on previous transfer years and the club’s reputation surrounding incomings:

 

  1. Centre Midfield –

Alex Woodyard – Peterborough – 27 y/o – Free Agent

Released by Peterborough in the summer, wanted by Tranmere, Mansfield and Colchester. Would be a very good addition to the Wimbledon midfield. 

Archie Collins – Exeter – 20 y/o – Transfer Fee

31 key passes for Exeter last season. 1 goal and 4 assists. Could be a very good little player. Will cost a fee though.

Idris El Mizouni – Ipswich – 19 y/o – Loan Deal

Very talented youngster. Exceptional short spell with Cambridge before injury. Could be available for loan if playing opportunities are limited with Ipswich.

Matthew Smith – Arsenal – 20 y/o – Loan Deal

Young Arsenal midfielder, performed well for the U23’s this season, called up to first team bench end of season. Needs adult football experience.

George Marsh – Tottenham – 21 y/o – Loan Deal

Spent season with Leyton Orient. 46 tackles and 24 interceptions. Good holding midfielder for top end League Two/bottom end League One.

Jack Roles – Tottenham – 21 y/o – Loan Deal

Spent season with Cambridge. 5 goals in 23 games. Excellent midfielder who deserves a step up to League One.

 

  1. Attacking Midfield –

Armando Shashoua – Tottenham – 19 y/o – Loan Deal

Enigmatic midfielder. Scored against Ipswich in Leasing.Com Trophy. 4 goals for Tottenham U23’s this year. Spent six months on loan in Spain

Tyreeq Bakinson – Bristol City – 21 y/o – Loan Deal

Spent last six months on loan with Plymouth. 2 goals and 2 assists in 14 games. Destined for League One next season. Could be a marquee loan deal. 

Stefan Scougall – Carlisle – 27 y/o – Free Agent

Released by Carlisle this summer after 2 goals and 1 assist in 20 games. Very cheap option to add depth to midfield options.

Matt O’Riley – Fulham – 19 y/o – Loan Deal

Young talent in need of first team football. Made an appearance for Fulham this season. Hot prospect.

Callum Slattery – Southampton – 21 y/o – Loan Deal

Spent last six months in Holland with De Graafschap. 2 goals and 1 assist in 14 games. Scored twice for Southampton U23’s in Leasing.Com Trophy against Coventry.

Nathan Holland – West Ham – 22 y/o – Loan Deal

Would be a real sign of intent from Wimbledon. 10 games for Oxford this season, 2 goals. West Ham think highly of him. Needs 46 games a season. Massive coup if possible…

  

  1. Striker –

Ollie Palmer – Crawley – 28 y/o – Free Agent

12 goals in 28 league appearances. Rumoured to be joining Wimbledon very soon. Would be a decent partner for Joe Pigott.

Oliver Hawkins – Portsmouth – 28 y/o – Free Agent

Released in the summer. Struggled this season but scored 10 for Pompey in 2018/19 season. Needs run of games. Ideal free agent signing.

Will Keane – Ipswich – 27 y/o – Free Agent

Wage could be an issue, but Will Keane is a top-level League One striker when fully fit. Reinvigorate his career with Wimbledon, could be the steal of the summer.

Jordan Roberts – Ipswich – 26 y/o – Free Agent

Released by Ipswich in the summer. Wanted by Gillingham, Doncaster, Salford and Rochdale. Would be a very good player for Wimbledon, and can play on the wing.

Jordy Hiwula – Coventry – 25 y/o – Free Agent

Scored 13 goals in 2018/19 season for Coventry, but struggled to displace Coventry forwards this season. Proved he is a very good League One player.

Rayhaan Tulloch – West Brom – 19 y/o – Loan Deal

Top goalscorer for the West Brom U23 side this season with 9 goals. Will be separate for a run out with a EFL side. Wimbledon could be his big starting block.

  

  • The Verdict

It’s always difficult to tell how each team is going to fair in the new season, because we haven’t seen many signings nor the influence of pre-season friendlies.

Just by going off how each team is expected to deal with the current COVID-19 financial troubles, and what each team is capable of doing under much greater restraint right now, I’m struggling to see anything other than a relegation battle for AFC Wimbledon this season.

They’ve done brilliantly to keep themselves in the league for so long, but this year could be a step too far. However, a few quality additions could be exactly what is needed. They have the crux of a solid back three and wide players, they just need to improve the attack and midfield this season.

 

What do you guys think? How do you think AFC Wimbledon will fair in the new season? Should they be looking for another season of securing safety, or will it be a step too far for the Wombles this season? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to follow All Out Football on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.