Dons land their leading man but now need a support act
Putting Game of Thrones on pause for a few minutes, MK Dons got what they really wanted on Monday night when the club announced the signing of a potent striker - but is it really what the club needed?
Three games into the new season, Dons are yet to score a goal in normal time - their only strike so far came against Forest Green Rovers in extra time - and neither Ryan Seager nor Robbie Muirhead have really had a sniff of goal.
Osman Sow comes to Stadium MK with a good reputation. Having worked under Robbie Neilson at Hearts, where the Swede was at his more dangerous, netting 23 goals in 52 appearances, a rekindling of their relationship should rectify Dons’ early season issues - right?
But there seems to be a more prominent problem at hand - someone to act as the intermediary between the midfield and the attack.
Down the years, Dons have had more than their fair share of ‘number 10s’, creative midfield players, someone with a spark, an attacking prowess, a bit of zip about them. So far this season, that flash seems to have gone missing.
Most recently, the incumbent of that role, and indeed the shirt number, was Ben Reeves. Not physical enough for a central midfield or centre forward role, Reeves would drop into ‘the hole’ and be that link, dragging the midfield up with him, while introducing the striker to the game with clever balls through to him.
Reeves though turned down a contract to stay at MK Dons, opting instead to tout himself to the Championship, only to end up for former boss Karl Robinson at Charlton, also in League 1.
Chuks Aneke is another who could fit seamlessly into that role, and did so well when he was fit last season. A physical presence, goals in his locker and a good eye for a pass, Aneke’s problem though, as it was with Reeves, is fitness.
After more than a year on the sidelines, Aneke made just 18 appearances between November and February before breaking down again with a hamstring injury - one he still isn’t due back from for another month or so.
Both Reeves and Aneke are luxury players, and if Neilson employs Sow as a lone striker, become even more essential to the way Dons will intend to play. But injured players can’t affect games.
Summer signing Peter Pawlett could be deployed there, but once more, injuries have curtailed his pre-season, and he is yet to make an appearance for Dons this term. And while Aaron Tshibola, on a season-long loan from Aston Villa, took on the role against Blackpool on Saturday, his talents appear to lie deeper in the midfield than sat in behind the striker
The signing of Sow though is the headline act. Landing Neilson’s number one summer target relieves pressure on the recruitment team, who have had too many shaky transfer windows to mention of late, and a centre forward is something fans have been crying out for at Stadium MK since the departure of Sam Baldock in 2011.
Goals have been at a premium for the club since winning promotion to the Championship in 2015, so landing a front man who can bring goals to the table has been the aim of the game - and rightly so.
However, what has unfolded during the course of the opening three matches so far this season has made the team’s other shortcomings highlighted even brighter.