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. Fourteenth on the list, is Russell Martin’s MK Dons:
The 2020/21 season will be MK Dons’ 17th in their history, and their second consecutive in League One. Their last venture outside of League One was their promotion campaign from the 2018/19 season, when Paul Tisdale guided them to a 3rd placed finish in League Two, finishing three points ahead of Mansfield and securing their spot in League One. In the 2019/20 season, Paul Tisdale lasted only 16 league games, being replaced on the 2nd of November by current player Russell Martin, who took up the role of manager, and finished the season with MK Dons in 19th position when PPG was implemented.
Russell Martin is heading into his second season with MK Dons, having taken over from Paul Tisdale in November of 2019. Martin’s managerial campaign consists of only one club, that being MK Dons. Martin was signed to a short-term deal with the club in January 2019, before stepping off the pitch and into the dugout to see out the rest of the season. Before his step into management, Martin’s footballing career began back in 2004, finishing out the season with non-league Lewes. In 2004, Martin joined Wycombe Wanderers on a non-contract deal, before signing a professional deal that saw him stay with the club until 2008. Out of contract, he joined League One Peterborough, staying until 2010. In his second season, he spent two months on loan with Norwich, before signing a permanent deal with the Norfolk side in January of 2010. He spent eight years with Norwich, amassing 309 appearances, before leaving on loan for Rangers in January 2018. He was released in June of 2018, before signing for Walsall and MK Dons in the next few months. In an interview with MKFM.com, Martin discusses his first tenure as a manager.
Since the start of the 2019/20 season, MK Dons have used 11 separate formations across four competitions last season. The most used one of those was the 4-4-2 Diamond, which was the set-up for 17 of the 46 games this season. Under Martin, MK Dons worked with only two set-ups, with the other nine being with Paul Tisdale. So, for the squad set up, I will be looking at the 4-4-2 Diamond. All of the formations were found using Transfermarkt.
GK – Lee Nichols
RB – Callum Britain
RCB – George Williams
LCB – Joe Walsh
LB – Dean Lewington
CDM – Jordan Houghton
RCM – Conor McGrandles
LCM – David Kasumu
CAM – Alex Gilbey
ST – Rhys Healey
ST – Kieran Agard
27-year-old Lee Nicholls was MK Dons’ first-choice goalkeeper last season, making 38 appearances in all competitions. The back up to him was Stuart Moore, with the 25-year-old playing six times last year. All stats supplied by WhoScored. Nicholls made 123 saves last season, with MK Dons’ defence being one of the poorest in the league if it meant Nicholls had to be called upon so many times.
On the right side, 22-year-old Callum Brittain was the fourth most used player last season, being the starting right midfielder when called upon, before moving back to a more familiar right back spot when Martin came in. Brittain played 37 times last season, scoring twice. Supporting him would have been George Williams, but the right back by trade was the most used centre back last year for MK Dons. Williams played 34 times last season, scoring once and getting three assists. Stats wise, Brittain made 30 tackles and 17 interceptions last season.
On the left, club captain Dean Lewington was the most capped player last season, playing 39 times without an attacking contribution. The support for Lewington was academy product Matthew Sorinola, who played three times in the EFL Trophy. In terms of the stats, Dean Lewington 79 tackles and 28 interceptions. Was a much better defender last season than Brittain when it came to defensive capabilities, with Brittain being a better attacking threat.
In the centre of defence, Joe Walsh was partnered alongside Williams for the majority of the year. The 2015 signing from Crawley played 29 times last season, with MK Dons being heavy on a rotation policy. Summer signing Regan Poole played 25 times for MK Dons last season after joining from Manchester United in the summer. Baily Cargill played 17 times last season, but struggled to displace Poole and Walsh from the pecking order. 26-year-old Jordan Moore-Taylor played 16 times last season for MK Dons, without scoring a goal. Current manager Russell Martin played 16 games this season, scoring once before taking the spot on the bench. Stats wise, Joe Walsh made 17 tackles and 36 interceptions from his 24 league games. Another defender who seemed to struggle last season.
In the middle of the pitch, Conor McGrandles was the most used midfielder this season, playing 38 times and getting three goals and four assists. A very good season for the Scotsman. 25-year-old Alex Gilbey played 37 times last season, scoring five goals and getting two assists. Was usually played as the more attacking midfielder in the diamond. Ex-Chelsea player Jordan Houghton played 36 times last season, predominantly as the holding midfielder, scoring twice and getting three assists. Academy product David Kasumu played 29 times for MK Dons last season, scoring twice and getting two assists. Summer signing Hiram Boateng played 28 times after his move from Exeter City, scoring once and getting two assists.
Another summer signing in the form of Ben Reeves from Charlton, he played 19 times last season, scoring once and getting one assist. Winter loan signing Louis Thompson played nine times for MK Dons, joining from then Premier League side Norwich. Also playing nine times was Ben Gladwin after his winter signing from Blackburn Rovers. Stats wise, McGrandles had a dribble success rate of 74%, and pass accuracy rate of 78%. A good all-round season from the midfielder. Compare that to Alex Gilbey, who had a dribble success rate of 59%, and a pass accuracy rate of 76%. Wasn’t as solid as McGrandles, but was tidy with the ball.
In terms of registered wingers, MK Dons only had one. When playing with wingers, they usually pushed the full backs on slightly further to adopt a five-at-the-back set up. Brennan Dickenson was that winger, playing 13 times after his summer transfer from Colchester United, before leaving for Exeter in the winter. Not a very good season for the new signing.
Going forward, MK Dons had a host of options to work with. 30-year-old Kieran Agard played 25 times for the club last season, scoring four times and getting three assists. Academy product Sam Nombe also played 25 times last season, scoring five times and getting two assists. Summer signing Jordan Bowery played 22 times after his transfer from Crewe Alexandra, scoring only twice. Not a good season from the forward.
MK Dons’ star man last season was Rhys Healey, with the ex-Cardiff summer signing scoring 12 times from his 21 appearances. A stellar season for a striker that will undoubtedly improve next season. Another summer signing, this time Joe Mason, played 16 times and scored four goals before his release in the summer. Carlton Morris joined the club on loan from Norwich in January, scoring twice in 10 games. Stats wise, Agard had 18 shots last season, compared to Healey’s 62 shots. Clear to see who was the standout player from last season.
MK Dons will have to be fairly active in the window, with a high squad turnaround being the way forward this season. In terms of outgoings, two players have left the club to join fellow League One side Lincoln City. Leading midfielder and starting centre back Conor McGrandles and Joe Walsh have left to join Michael Appleton’s side. Big losses for me. Alex Gilbey has also moved to a League One side, with Charlton snapping him up for an undisclosed fee. Dylan Asonganyi has joined Oxford United on a free transfer, didn’t make much of an impact last season.
Dropping down the leagues are Jordan Moore-Taylor and Jordan Bowery, who have moved to Forest Green and Mansfield respectively. With the unretained list announced a few months back, players such as Ben Reeves, Joe Mason, Charlie Pattison, Ryan Harley and Stuart Moore find themselves without a club. Leaving the club after their loan deals expired were Andy Fisher, Carlton Morris and Louis Thompson, but more on those final two soon.
With players leaving, MK Dons needed replacements. Two of the loanees from last season, Carlton Morris and Louis Thompson have rejoined the club for another year. 22-year-old full back Daniel Harvie has joined the club from Ayr United, where he played 33 games for them last season. Looks to be a wing back type player, could be played further forward this season. Two centre-backs have joined MK Dons this season, with Richard Keogh being the first of those. The 33-year-old released by Derby last season has joined MK Dons for the year. Also, with the club for a year is Warren O’Hara, who has joined on a season long loan from Brighton. MK have tried to fill the gaps left by summer outgoings, and have filled a few of them so far.
The Problem Areas?
With lots of players leaving, and a few coming in, MK Dons have a slightly different side to work with this season. In goal, they still have first choice keeper Lee Nichols, but with Stuart Moore’s departure in the summer, their back up is 30-year-old Lawrie Walker. In defence, MK still have Callum Brittain and George Williams as their right back/right midfield options, whilst also having Daniel Harvie and Dean Lewington on the left-hand side. In the centre, MK have Richard Keogh, Warren O’Hara, Bailly Cargill and Regan Poole for next season. The club have been experimenting with a three-back again this summer, so will probably need another top quality centre back.
In the middle of the park, MK have Curtis Thompson, Hiram Boateng, Jordan Houghton, Ben Gladwin and David Kasumu to work with. With Boateng linked with a move away, and no real attacking threat with McGrandles and Gilbey leaving, may need to look for an attacking midfielder. Going forward, the club still have Rhys Healey, Kieran Agard, Carlton Morris and Sam Nombe to work with, so many not look to add someone to that front line.
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:
Centre Back –
Richard Nartey – Chelsea – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Spent last season on loan with Burton. 38 tackles and 51 interceptions last season from 25 league games. Has a lot of potential. Wouldn’t be surprised if he rejoins a team in League One.
Scott Wharton – Blackburn – 22 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season with Northampton. 43 games in all competitions. 37 tackles and 42 interceptions in League One. Four goals last season. Two years left with Blackburn. Loan spell in League One? Convince a permanent?
Mich’el Parker – Liverpool – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Is believed to be on trial with MK Dons, just released by Liverpool. Could be a good squad player.
Donervon Daniels – Luton – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Just been released by Luton but is a very good League One defender. Could be an ideal place to get his career restarted.
Rhys Bennett – Peterborough – 28 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Peterborough in the summer. Is still a good League One defender. Wouldn’t be too far too travel.
Charlie Raglan – Cheltenham – 27 y/o – Transfer Fee
Was very good for Cheltenham last season as they got into the play-offs, and is looking like a player who could make the move to League One.
Centre/Attacking Midfielder –
Marcus Maddison – Peterborough – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Peterborough in the summer. Will struggle to find a side above League One because of attitude issues. Lower his wages, needs a restart.
Robbie Gotts – Leeds – 20 y/o – Loan Deal
Been linked with likes of Blackpool, Huddersfield and Hull in the last few weeks, needs to get first team football now that Leeds have been promoted.
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.
Ravel Morrison – Sheffield Utd – 27 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Sheff Utd in the summer, spent some time with Middlesbrough last season. May need to drop down a few divisions to get some football.
Stefan Scougall – Carlisle – 27 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Carlisle in the summer. 27 games last year, two goals and one assist. Would be a very cheap back up option.
Matt O’Riley – Fulham – 19 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Fulham in the summer. Hasn’t had as many opportunities as he would have liked in his short career. A move to bottom end League One – top end League Two could be in the offing.
It’s always difficult to tell how each team is going to fair in the new season, because although we have seen signings and the influence of pre-season friendlies, you can never tell how a season is going to pan out. 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 think that MK Dons may be in for another season of bottom half football. They have some very good players, but losing Gilbey and McGrandles will hurt them in the new season. Getting a few more quality additions could push them higher, but for now I can’t see them getting too high in the table.
What do you guys think? How do you think MK Dons will fair in the new season? Will Russell Martin’s first full season as a manager pay off? Or will it be another season of struggle? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to follow All Out Football on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.