Since arriving from Zulte Waregam in the summer of 2016, Chuks Aneke has had a time of mixed emotion at MK Dons. The powerful forward has struggled with injuries following his free transfer from the Belgian side, but when he has played, he has undoubtedly been the most effective player on the pitch.
Aneke is now beginning to play regularly after returning from a hamstring problem. His return has coincided with a slight upturn in fortunes for his team too. It is beginning to appear that any success MK Dons have this season will almost certainly have Aneke at the centre of it.
Chuks Aneke Will be Vital to any MK Dons Success This Season
It was Karl Robinson, the former Dons boss now at Charlton, who signed Aneke. He did it knowing that the player was injured, but was sure that once fully fit, he would have a huge impact.
However, following an unacceptable start to the 2016/17 season, Robinson was relieved of his duties, and it was all before Aneke could make his return. Richie Barker was the first to introduce the new attacker, while he was in caretaker charge of the team, bringing him on as a late substitute for Ben Reeves in a 3-2 home loss to Chesterfield.
He then made substitute appearances in three of the next four games (being unused in the away loss to Gillingham) before finally making his first start in a 3-2 win over Swindon. He made an instant impact too, setting up Kieran Agard’s second goal when his shot was flicked in by the Dons forward.
A New Hero?
Aneke then started the next game against Chesterfield, before his run of form at the end of January really got MK Dons fans talking. A spell of four goals in two games all but confirmed that Aneke was a fan favourite, especially considering the quality of his strikes.
The first of his back-to-back braces came in the 5-3 win over Northampton. He netted a 43rd minute penalty to register his first goal for the club and then rifled home a second from the edge of the area. In the next game against Peterborough, a 4-0 away win for the Dons, he scored the third (which won Channel 5 Sport’s Goal of the Day competition) with a thunderous strike, and then the fourth too with another powerful finish into the bottom corner.
However, after such a positive return, the season was to end early for Aneke. After coming on as a 65th minute substitute against Bradford, he lasted just 21 minutes before he had to be replaced by Darren Potter. The attacker had re-kindled the hamstring injury that had kept him out at the start of the season, and it was confirmed by Robbie Neilson that he would miss the remainder of the campaign after having surgery.
A New Campaign
Much like last season, it took time for Aneke to make his first appearance of 2017/18. Thankfully, it came a little earlier than previously, as at the end of September, he came on as a late substitute for Osman Sow in a 2-0 away win at Bury.
After a couple more substitute appearances, he made his first start in the 1-1 draw with Walsall, and it was an instant impact. 24 minutes into the game, Ousseynou Cisse floated in a free-kick, and Aneke rose highest to nod in his first goal of the campaign.
Since that first goal, Aneke has featured in four out of five games (he was an unused substitute in the EFL Trophy win over Oxford United). In that time, he has found the net twice, too. The first of which was a stunning free-kick in the FA Cup win over non-league Hyde United, and the second a thunderbolt in the league win over Fleetwood Town.
It is fair to say that Aneke has made a positive start to his campaign. He has played just four times in the league but has netted twice, giving him a rate of 0.5 goals per game. Admittedly, this would be more impressive had he played more games. However, it is not a bad return for a player who is not always deployed as a striker, sometimes being pushed back to midfield, especially when you consider that throughout his entire MK Dons career he has 0.44 goals per game.
There is no doubt that Aneke has the ability to play at a higher level. If he can finally put aside his injury problems, then MK Dons will have a huge battle on their hands to keep him around with the way he has been performing so far.
In terms of a short-term future, the forward really does have the makings of a captain. Standing at an imposing 6ft 3″ and boasting an impressive body figure, he is a massive physical presence for his side, as well as having an abundance of leadership qualities.
He can work as part of the team but equally has the ability to almost run the show on his own. He can also motivate, which is something that the Dons players have been needing for a lot of the season.
It is clear that MK Dons are a much better team with Aneke that they are without him. If they can keep him fit and keep firing, he will be the key to any success that Robbie Neilson’s side has this season.