There seems to be a perception that changing a manager will produce an automatic upturn in results.
Any failing organisation takes time to recover. Maybe it’s a school or a hospital that has produced poor results, and a change of management is brought in to improve standards and drive up results. Those improvements take time and effort. It usually necessitates a change in culture from top to bottom.
Dan Micciche and Keith Millen have inherited the current squad of players. They have taken over a club which has been in decline for two and a half seasons. They are having to deal with damage and divisions caused by the previous regime.
On top of this they are having to introduce new ideals, a new philosophy, a new style of football. They don’t have the luxury of signing players to suit that ethos nor a pre-season to prepare the players for the fight ahead.
When fans take to social media to criticise the manager after one league defeat, I shake my head in despair. What if Simon Grayson had come here and the results had been the same. Would we then criticise Pete for having spent money on someone who doesn’t understand the club? It’s a lose, lose situation until the club starts winning again.
People question what the “MK Way” is.
This isn’t a concept that mysteriously appeared during Karl Robinson’s time at the club. Anyone who followed the club when Martin Allen was at the club would be aware of the one dimensional hoof ball that characterised his management. When he left, Peter Winkelman promised that the MK Way would be an attractive brand of passing football. He also spoke of his desire for that style of football to be reflected at every level of football within the club. At the same time he promoted the ideal of promotion from within, therefore maintaining the ethos from generation to generation.
What I saw against Walsall on Saturday was a team attempting to play passing football again. But in the first half, it was like a training session at the start of pre-season with players looking like they hadn’t got to grips with the style of play.
We saw the ball being moved side to side, either along the back line or along the halfway line. We saw attempts at “pass and go” football result in the ball constantly being given away. Everything was being done at half speed, allowing Walsall to break out at pace, leaving us exposed at the back.
Through balls were over-hit, or opportunities to break forward ignored in favour of a “safer” pass back. There was a lack of width in our play, with wide men constantly turning inside which in turn led to a congested midfield and confusion amongst the players.
The lack of movement was obvious with players appearing static as they waited for passes to come to them. This allowed Walsall to press forward and stifle possession. It was Johan Cruyff who once said;
When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball 3 minutes on average … So, the most important thing is: what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.
All of this is reflected in the stats, with the Dons showing 55% possession but having half the number of shots made by Walsall and just one shot on target in 90 minutes of football.
The players and management will know that yesterdays performance was not acceptable and I feel that there are several players who aren’t up to this level of football. But as Kelly Hawkins tweeted yesterday; “This is what we have to get us to the end of the season now” and she is absolutely right.
I do know that the fans at Walsall were generally fair and supportive. We were all frustrated by the performance and the result but equally there appeared to be an understanding that this was a new start which would take time.
I thought Dean Lewington played well. He went round before the match and spoke personally to every player on the pitch. He was vocal during the match and had a decent match at left back. He did push forward a lot but made his passes count and was covered off by other players.
Elliott Ward had a really decent debut with one outstanding goal saving tackle in the first half that he had no right to make.
Another player to impress was Robbie Muirhead. He came on in the 51st minute and transformed the side with his forward movement and crisp passing. Most good things in the 2nd half involved Muirhead in some way.
Ike Ugbo looked lively when he came on in 73th minute and perhaps should have scored with a shot that went just wide from 20 yards out.
For all the criticism of our defence, there were only 2 shots on target from Walsall, and we’ve only conceded 2 goals in 180 minutes of football. The issue we have is further up the pitch. Just 4 shots on target in 180 minutes of football.
The return of Chuks Aneke is going to be essential to our improvement in that area. Given the impact that Muirhead has had, I’d like to see him starting next time out along with Ugbo. I’m sure readers will all have different opinions to me of course.
Look, I left the ground feeling really disheartened. It’s horrible being a fan of the Dons at the moment.
The average points total for survival in League One over the last 12 years is 48. That means we need 18 points from our final 17 matches. And provided the senior players show some leadership and the younger players are allowed to perform to their ability I still believe that we can stay up.
A relegation fight can turn into something positive. A little luck, an inspired performance, an unexpected win… and suddenly everyone can see light at the end of the tunnel. Do we have any option but to be positive? I really hope to see the players and fans come out and show they’re up for the fight next week.