Blackpool will be looking to build on two improved performances against Crewe and Charlton on Saturday against MK Dons. The Seasiders have won only one of our League One games this season and Neil Critchley will be hoping that a win at Bloomfield Road will be seen as a catalyst to a turnover in the season.
Well here we are again. That hopeful hint of optimism that this weekend could be the one where the winless run can finally come to an end. And if we have any ambitions of this season being anything other than a relegation scrap, these are the sorts of games you really have to be winning.
Whilst the lack of cutting edge has remained over the past two fixtures, we have looked much more aggressive and have been pressing in a similar vain to that of our pre-season exploits. We also looked slightly more composed at the back on Tuesday night when Daniel Ballard was involved. The Arsenal loanee looked incredibly commanding and resolute in his debut man of the match performance against Charlton and already stands as our number one centre half going forward.
Change in shape?
If we want to start picking up results it is important that we play to the strengths of the players involved. Nothing is stopping Critchley developing the style of play he wants throughout the coming months and hopefully years in training and slowly in games, but if he wants the time to actually pull this off, he needs to compromise to bring results initially as well.
These aren’t major changes and I think that is the most important thing. The same general mentality and philosophy will be there, we are not asking for much, there can be a balance that works across the board.
For me, we have to be looking to play 4-2-3-1 against MK Dons and going forward as long as we are relying on Gary Madine to be the cutting edge spark for the side. Now, unfortunately we will have to play Demetri Mitchell at left back this week given the injury to Luke Garbutt and the suspension of James Husband, where ideally I would have him in the advanced midfield three on the left flank.
Also, with Keshi Anderson out injured, that gives Ben Woodburn the chance to stake a claim for the number ten position in the advanced midfield three. Woodburn linking up with Madine’s hold up play, with a now fit Sullay Kaikai on the left and CJ Hamilton on the right seems a much more sensible proposition than the limbo tactics we have seen in recent weeks.
What I believe is the most important factor to take into account against MK Dons is our ability to bounce back from conceding. We could play well for 20 minutes and then concede a sucker punch goal, usually our heads will then go for another 30 minutes and we will lose control of the game. That simply cannot happen anymore. We need to have the belief in our creative outlets to provide game-changing moments for us and I think the side have lost faith and belief in that happening. I think the change in system will enable us to take the chances we have created so far this season.
What to expect from MK Dons?
MK Dons have had a fairly average start to the season. Having said that, speaking to Ross Duffy from MK1 Podcast earlier in the week, MK are said to be in somewhat of a “false position” after putting in some top performances against the likes of Portsmouth, Ipswich and most recently Oxford, but lacking the cutting edge to take advantage of the chances they created. Sound familiar?
The Dons did bolster their attacking options recently with the addition of now 34-year-old Cameron Jerome, with this his first time in the third tier of English football, and with a debut goal against Oxford under his belt, he will be hoping to add to that at Bloomfield Road at the weekend.
Scott Fraser is the main man for MK according to Ross. Having fought off Championship interest to bring in Fraser, having most recently been the main man in the Burton Albion midfield, he is someone who can control the game in the number ten position. We need to ensure that we don’t give him the freedom to roam and MJ Williams and Ethan Robson both shuttling the half space and squeezing the gap between the defence and midfield in defensive phases will be vital in ensuring this doesn’t happen.
We all expect to see their wing backs playing high, so it will be very much a battle of whether we can push them back ourselves in order to eradicate their attacking phases before they even happen. Having Kaikai and Hamilton on the shoulder of the defence and being brave enough to stay high for most of the game, will enable us to close the gap down the wings, forcing MK back.
Overall, MK come as a decent unit that is looking to play a more advanced positive style of play under Russell Martin and this could suit our approach. It will more than likely leave MK exposed in phases of the game, but it is vital that we finally have that clinical edge to take advantage of the chances when they come. A change in system for us and I think we have the quality in the side to convincingly beat the Dons and get our season kickstarted, although our full back defensive quality remains a worry.
Sean’s side to play MK Dons is as follows:
Sean’s Prediction: Blackpool 2-1 MK Dons (Madine, Woodburn) Key Player: MJ Williams
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