Midfield flops, not the defence, at fault for MK Dons' downfall

Aaron Tshibola has failed to fire at MK Dons
Aaron Tshibola has failed to fire at MK Dons

When a side concedes goals, it’s easy to look at the defence and pick out where they could have done better, but in MK Dons case this season, the issue has been lying further up the field.

So often the source of reliability and overwatch in the past, the centre of the park has been where Dons have been poor and at times hopeless this season. Since the departure of Darren Potter in the summer, Robbie Neilson has sought to establish a new general in the middle.

Ouss Cisse looks lost at times in the centre of the park

Ouss Cisse looks lost at times in the centre of the park

READ MORE: Neilson points fingers at Williams and Wootton after Posh defeat

Ouss Cisse was brought in from the French second tier and Aaron Tshibola loaned from Aston Villa in a bid to fill the shoes of Potter - the ring leader, conductor and play-maker. So far though, neither have lived up, or even come close, to replacing what Dons lost in letting Potter leave for free.

In Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Peterborough at London Road, Cisse nor Tshibola looked up for the fight. The adage in football reads ‘can they do it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke?’ when asking whether players can really cut the mustard in this country. Frankly, neither Tshibola nor Cisse looked capable of getting anywhere near it at Peterborough, let alone a shot at the Britannia Stadium in the top flight.

Second to the ball, wanting too much time on it, struggling with the pace at which Peterborough were breaking through the middle, the pair left their back three exposed.

After the defeat, Neilson pointed the finger at George Williams and Scott Wootton as they men who needed to stand up to the Posh attack, feeling they were bullied by the front pair.
While Ricky Miller and Marcus Maddison were both afforded too much time on the ball, Neilson’s real concern should have been how they were allowed to be fed the ball with such ease and regularity as they were.

Ed Upson was key in midfield last season

Ed Upson was key in midfield last season

The manager opted for a three-at-the-back approach to the game against Grant McCann’s side, and for the first 45 minutes, the sides matched. It wasn’t a thriller, but a match balanced on a knife-edge and it could have gone either way.

What was obvious in the first half though was Cisse’s needless fouls in dangerous areas, the ease at which Tshibola could float away from play and Alex Gilbey’s unerring ability to mop up after the pair of them.

While not directly involved or at fault for Peterborough’s opener barely two minutes after the restart, Tshibola watched from the floor, after giving the ball away cheaply 20 yards from goal, as Maddison bent in Posh’s second five minutes after the first - all but ending Dons’ chances of escaping a from London Road with any spoils.

Injury problems for Ed Upson forced Neilson’s hand somewhat in the centre of the park. Upson, industrious and battling, came into his own in the latter stages of last season as he sought to take over the ‘Potter role’. And upon reflection, his injury in the first half at Home Park sparked Plymouth Argyle into life just as much as Graham Carey’s red card did for the Pilgrims.

Chuks Aneke is nearing fitness again

Chuks Aneke is nearing fitness again

And the talismanic Chuks Aneke is proven to get things going, so long as he can stay fit.

With both Upson and Aneke almost guaranteed starters and currently out of the side, it is hard to see where both Cisse and Tshibola fit in when the pair return to fitness.