Neilson's January shopping list must include goals

Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson

There may still be six weeks until the transfer window reopens on New Year’s Day 2018, but for MK Dons and Robbie Neilson, some rethinking is in order.

The departure of Aaron Tshibola six months earlier than anticipated was met with widespread smiles and, frankly, relief by most Dons supporters, but it has meant Neilson’s January transfer plans will inevitably be a little different than he had initially hoped.

Aaron Tshibola

Aaron Tshibola

READ MORE: Dons cut short Aaron Tshibola's loan deal
“We’re already thinking about January,” he admitted. “I think we need to do a little bit of business in the window, we probably need a couple in, and certainly one with Aaron moving on.

“This gives the younger lads a chance to stake a claim, and maybe make me look elsewhere, to a different position I look to strengthen if they step up to the plate.”

Tshibola’s short time at Stadium MK was fraught. His big reputation was met with abject performances and disappointment all round.

But it leaves a space in the centre of midfield Neilson would sooner have filled.

Osman Sow has been plagued with injuries since arriving at MK Dons

Osman Sow has been plagued with injuries since arriving at MK Dons

He isn’t short of options in there though. Deadline day saw the arrival of Alex Gilbey - a player Dons spent big money to land from Wigan - who has not only become a mainstay of the team, he is also donning the captain’s armband more often than not too.

Ed Upson is becoming more integral to Dons’ midfield motion, while Ouss Cisse, although out injured at the moment, to also finding his feet at League 1 level.

Add to that recent performances of Aidan Nesbitt, Brandon Thomas-Asante, Gboly Ariyibi and Peter Pawlett, all playing a central role and Chuks Aneke’s return from injury - Neilson can afford to look elsewhere in January.

And given their problems this season, the Dons boss should be looking much higher up the pitch. His team needs a goal-scorer; a poacher, a fox in the box, a man who will score even when the rest of the team is failing to perform.

It’s fair to say Neilson’s marquee signing of Osman Sow has yet to bear fruit. The Swede arrived unfit after missing out on pre-season training, and has suffered two injuries in quick succession, stunting his time at Stadium MK.

This has had a knock-on effect on the likes of Ryan Seager and Kieran Agard - both of whom lack the physicality to play as the lone front man.

And while Aneke can act as the ‘big man’ to their ‘little man’ his talents are better used playing in behind.

Robbie Muirhead is nearing a year at the club and he is still to really break into the first team, and has barely been seen in the squad of late, playing most of his football in the development squad.

There never can be too many goals in a team, so going after a proven striker with goals in him is about as obvious a present on Neilson’s Christmas list as can be.

Going after another player who can dig Dons out of some of the holes they create for themselves is hardly likely to upset any apple carts in the squad.

And with a Tshibola shaped hole in the wage bill too, the Aston Villa midfielder’s departure could be the gift that keeps on giving.