League One Gameweek Ten: Good Day For MK?5 min read
Milton Keynes Dons head into Saturday’s hosting of Southend as odds-on favourites.
Will Paul Tisdale’s side relish the favourites tag, or could the Shrimpers accrue their first league win of the campaign?
Tisdale blooding the youth
MK Dons have enjoyed a positive start to the season, with 12 points from their first eight games leaving them 11th.
Although Tisdale’s troops are just two points off the Play-Off places at this early stage, it feels like they will be looking towards a year of consolidation and a top half finish.
In 2018-19, the club were under a lot of pressure to get promoted and, perhaps for that reason, the management team were reluctant to blood the youth, with just one academy graduate in Callum Brittain starting more than one league game.
This term, we know they are too good to go down and it may not be until the 2020-21 campaign that there will be any expectation for a top six push, so Tisdale has been happy to hand opportunities to the likes of Sam Nombe and David Kasumu, who both came through the youth setup.
That was brave, especially as both made their first starts of the season against AFC Wimbledon, but it has paid off and MK now have potentially two big assets on their hands.
Nombe is a willing runner who loves to stretch defences and perhaps, at a higher level, a striker with those qualities is more valuable than a languid finisher like Kieran Agard.
Kasumu is a very energetic and dynamic midfielder, something MK have perhaps missed over the previous two seasons whenever Alex Gilbey has been out injured – the 19-year-old’s rise means Gilbey’s availability would now be a nice bonus, rather than a decisive factor.
Can Southend tighten up?
Southend United’s 4-3 loss at Shrewsbury in midweek means the Essex club have accrued just a solitary point from their opening eight games.
Excellent effort from the Southend United fans who’ve made the long journey to Shrewsbury 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/IwhQkgbjUX
— Nick Alliker (@BBCNick) September 17, 2019
The Shrimpers have conceded an alarming 24 goals which, for context, is one more than Bolton, who have only very recently been able to field an XI that is not made up entirely of youngsters.
It seems likely that caretaker manager Gary Waddock will take charge of this match, even if the club announce a permanent appointment before kick-off.
Waddock was damning, last time out, of his side’s concession of soft, silly goals – he even questioned the determination of his team.
Waddock has said that his side will focus heavily in training on their work out of possession, from the top end of the pitch to the bottom end, which may give us an indication of their priorities in Buckinghamshire.
The Tactics Board
We could see a Southend performance that is geared entirely towards stemming the tide defensively, with the attacking play possibly being sacrificed in order to tighten up.
It could be a case of Jason Demetriou, a tenacious right-back by trade, coming on the right side of midfield to firm things up and facilitate a switch from 4-3-3 to 4-4-1-1, with a willing runner in Brandon Goodship up top and potentially Stephen Humphrys playing just off him.
It’s possible that the first half of this match will be subdued, with Southend keeping eight men behind the ball to force strikers Jordan Bowery – who should come into the XI after his contribution from the bench in midweek – and Sam Nombe into wide, unthreatening areas.
In that case, MK Dons, likely to deploy the same diamond system they deployed for 40 second-half minutes on Tuesday, will have to be patient to open Southend up.
The Betting Angle
For the above reasons, we’re picking a best bet that bucks the statistical trend with Southend and takes account of how they are likely set up based on Waddock’s comments.
Of course, MK Dons are a far better team and should accrue three points if they keep their composure.
Tip: MK Dons and under 3.5 goals