Om det fanns något att anmärka på under förra säsongen så var det spelet i de inhemska cuperna, det blev tidiga respass i båda och det är något som Liverpool säkerligen vill förbättra i år. När man kliver in i den första cupen är det MK Dons som står för motståndet, en ung och omdebatterad klubb. Paul Camden(@Camden_Paul) och Toby Lock(@Citizen_toby) följer båda The Dons, här berättar de om klubben som står mellan oss och nästa omgång i ligacupen:
1: MK Dons is a young club, founded in 2004, what do we need to know about your club?
PC: If you don’t know the story by now, then there’s a wealth of information available online and you can pick and choose which bits you want to believe. In simple terms, Wimbledon were granted permission to move from South West London in May 2002, they eventually moved to Milton Keynes in the Autumn of 2003, before a change of name to MK Dons at the end of that season. We’ve spent the large majority of the time since in the third tier (League One) and gained a reputation for producing good young players, playing attractive football and having one of the best stadiums outside the top flight.
TL: Even though the club is still very young, it has had three promotions, three relegations, they have upset Premier League giants, helped develop one of England’s brightest talents, build one of the best grounds in the EFL and are entirely hated for it.
2: How has the start of the season been for MK Dons?
PC: It’s been a bit hit & miss. We only got promoted back to this level after a one season stay in league 2 back in May and are still finding our feet. We currently sit comfortably in mid table and that probably won’t change too much throughout the season. We do have one of the larger budgets in this league though, and have a good young squad who will get better in the next season or two.
TL: Despite being promoted last season, a lot of fans predicted a season Dons could be fighting for a promotion place. Realistically, with four wins and four defeats from the opening eight games, I think it has shown the squad could be there or thereabouts this season, but a significant fight for promotion may be a stretch at this stage. There have been signs of promise, some good performances, but also a few teams have already managed to highlight where Dons are lacking.
3. Paul Tisdale has been your manager since the summer of 2018, how is he rated among the supporters?
PC: Very well rated by most. He became a household name in English football for his 12 years at Exeter City and his always smart dress sense (most English Managers seem to get dressed in the dark if they try wearing anything other than club tracksuit and jacket) Tis was a trailblazer, and still is. As for his football, it’s still a little early to judge. He knew what it took to get out of league 2 and now we’re seeing signings that should add a bit more flair to the team. He also came with a strong reputation for developing youth players, but we saw little of that until this season, where he seems to have placed a lot more trust in our Academy graduates.
TL: Although Paul Tisdale secured promotion at the first time of asking, has stopped a team on the slide by teaching them how to win again, playing attractive football at times and grinding out results when things aren’t going well, he still has his naysayers. I think for the most part, people are happy with him but unrealistic expectations from some of the fanbase may put him under unnecessary pressure.
4. How would you describe the way you play?
PC: It’s slightly difficult to judge as we will change a lot from game to game. Tis is a student of the game and recognises that different opposition need different tactics. Sometime that works, sometimes it doesn’t. There were signs last season when we had everyone fit that we saw his favoured 5-3-2 and we looked very pleasing on the eye. We’re all convinced he invented overlapping centre halves in this country despite Sheffield United playing a similar system in The Championship. Most teams could handle that when it worked, but key defensive injuries meant we had to change tactics and had to sacrifice some of the flair. We’ve still tried it with mixed results this season, but it may return soon. I doubt a game against Liverpool will be the one to try anything to risky though.
TL: At times, Dons can play excellent, free-flowing football. At other times, they can look lost and without a clear idea of what they’re trying to achieve. They are a typical League One side in that sense. Anyone who can be consistent and have a clear motive will thrive in the division. Dons are new to it, and are still adapting.
5. Which players are most important to your team?
PC: If I’d answered this before last weekend, I’d have said Rhys Healey who we recently signed from Cardiff after a great loan period last season. We were in fact set to continue that loan until the tragic Emiliano Sala plane crash meant Cardiff needed to retain him. He joined us with a niggling injury and was just finding form for us before he got injured in the warm up last weekend. A long term injury and a real sickener. In his place we have a lively young Academy graduate called Sam Nombe. He’s looked very promising, but if he starts it’ll be only something like his fifth start. A big ask for a young player. Therefore I have to go with the midfield as being key for us. It’ll likely be any three of Conor McGrandles, Alex Gilbey, Hiram Boateng, David Kasumu and Jordan Houghton. All are decent players for our level, but they will have a tough night, I’m sure.
TL: Injuries have taken hold of the team in the last few weeks, taking out some key personnel. Rhys Healey would have been the man to watch but he will be out for several months, while Alex Gilbey – the midfield engine – is also currently sidelined. Academy prospects Sam Nombe and David Kasumu have some to the fore in recent weeks while the experienced head of Russell Martin in defence has added an air of calm to the backline.
6. Spurs star Dele Alli is from your club, what are your thoughts on his development?
PC: We’re all incredibly proud of what Dele has achieved. We all just knew he’d make it in the top flight from the moment we saw him. He just glided around the pitch the way the very best players do. I’m sure he’ll get back to his very best this season after what looked like an injury hit season. He’ll still come and watch us whenever he can and was at our game with AFC Wimbledon just the other week. Spurs play on Tuesday next week. I bet he’ll be at the game on Wednesday.
TL: You could tell instantly Dele was destined for the top flight – his first touch was a backheel! He had an arrogance, a swagger and the ability to back it up. We all predicted he would move to Liverpool until they somehow managed to botch it and allow Tottenham to take him instead. It was great for Milton Keynes to see him at the World Cup, and he is still fondly remembered at Stadium MK.
7. How do you think you will lineup against Liverpool and what kind of game do you expect?
PC: I expect it to be 5-3-2. Usually we give the wingbacks the freedom to get well up the pitch but I suspect it will be slightly more defensive on the night. However, as I said, don’t be surprised to see our centre halves on the edge of your box if we play with that sort of freedom, or are forced to chase the game. Tis does often change things in terms of formation and it’s been rare that we’ve finished any game this season with the same formation we started with. He’ll relish the challenge, I’m sure.
TL: I don’t think anyone is expecting anything other than an entertaining night. Dons will put out a strong side, but the result won’t mean an awful lot to them – unless it’s an embarrassing scoreline. With Liverpool expected to put out a half decent side, they should have more than enough to see off Dons.