Dons aren’t playing the traditional role during the January sales. Usually, customers rush out to stock up on bargains. Karl Robinson and co though are playing the role of shop-keeper, clearing their shelves before bringing in the new stock.
On Saturday, Dons drew the uncomfortable line under their failed Spanish experiment when they released Sergio Aguza, making him the fifth man to depart stadium:mk in 2016, along with Diego Poyet, Sam Gallagher, Cristian Benavente and Mark Randall.
The cull, perhaps with the exception of Poyet, will probably make little difference to Robinson’s first team. Poyet’s void though was swiftly filled though by Jake Forster-Caskey - so far the only incomer in a month of outgoings.
Perhaps his sweeping of the decks could have been done sooner. Poyet and Gallagher were sent back to their parent clubs, while Aguza, Benavente and Randall were all released back into the wild. The window hasn’t really had much affect on the decisions either. Robinson always knew he’d need to clear his lines, regardless of whether he was going to take the money and run with it, or squirrel it away for a better day. Reacting earlier though could have allowed Robinson to move immediately as soon as the window opened, rather than being two weeks and four games in with only a defensive midfielder to show for it.
The cuts are set to continue too. Robinson has hinted more will go before anyone new comes in, and he hasn’t ruled out a familiar, and maybe key face making way in order to ensure Dons’ Championship status.
But there’s not an awful lot left for Robinson to cut before he hits bone. Suspensions at the back have already left him relying on Matt Upson as cover at centre back - a player who has come through 90 minutes just five times in the last year. A long term injury to Carl Baker and the intermittent appearances of Daniel Powell leave Dons short of cover in the wide areas, and they’ve been desperately short up front all season. Robinson’s task to cut further is unenviable.
Given all the talk though, he also has to deliver. His decision to keep the money in his pocket is a controversial one, especially given the precarious position Dons find themselves in. He knows he has to deliver not only a player who will do the business on the pitch, but one who will get the fans excited too. Gone are the days of experimentation, now is the time to find someone to get them out of trouble. And he has to do it sooner rather than later.
Clearing the shelves certainly makes more room to manoeuvre, and gives Dons more scope to broaden the parameters in the search. Too many more fire sales though will leave Robinson looking like old Mother Hubbard staring at a one-way ticket back to League 1.