With the dust starting to settle on our return to Coventry, the focus is now on ensuring that our first game back in our home city is in the Championship. Results over the weekend were kind to us, meaning we may possibly only need another eight points to stay up, the sooner we can get them, the sooner we can genuinely look forward to our homecoming.
These upcoming games before the next international break, starting with this trip to Luton Town, aren’t necessarily make-or-break but represent an opportunity to reduce the pressure on the run-in to come. The target has to be to win at least one of these two games, with four or more points likely to put us within touching distance of a realistic survival points tally.
With this game against Luton Town being both the tougher of our two fixtures this week, as well an away game, I would imagine that Mark Robins’ mentality heading into this match will be to keep things as tight as possible in order to keep a clean sheet that would ensure at least a point from this game. As such, I wouldn’t expect a change from the negative 3-5-1-1 system that was deployed last time out against Derby County.
It is going to be important in this game that Gustavo Hamer, Matty James and the wing-backs provide better support in attack for Callum O’Hare and Maxime Biamou than against Derby. If not, we are likely to be relying on the opposition not breaking through our defence, avoiding mistakes and making the most of the few chances we get. Personally, I’m not a fan of this system and approach as it means that the game-plan goes completely out of the window if and when the opposition score.
The presences of Matty Godden and Tyler Walker on the bench will at least provide the ability to change things up if we go behind in this game. The question is whether either player is in condition currently to influence a game, as well as whether Mark Robins is proactive to make any potential change early enough in the game to affect the outcome.
Last Time We Met
With both teams more concerned with not conceding than trying to score, the meeting between Coventry City and Luton Town at St Andrew’s back in December was a thoroughly predictable and uneventful 0-0. There is nothing more to add to that.
The Manager – Nathan Jones
Having climbed quickly in recent years from League Two to the Championship, Nathan Jones and Luton Town are a club that look to be 12 months ahead of where the Sky Blues want to be. Survival last season was narrow but, off the back of a handful of decent additions in the transfer market and a core of pre-existing players who have gradually risen to the level, Luton have never really been in trouble this season and will look ahead to another year of Championship football targeting further improvement.
Nathan Jones has compromised at times on his preferred, attacking style – especially away from home, where Luton have scored just eight goals in 18 games – but it has afforded the team some breathing room to work on improvements that will stand them in good stead for next year. With safety all but certain at this point, Luton are likely to be concentrated on returning to the attacking football that got them into this division two seasons ago and will relish the prospect of taking on a team below them in the table.
Who To Look Out For
The emphasis at Luton under Nathan Jones has been about building a team collective stronger than any individual, but their progress this season has been aided by a handful of stand-out individuals who have raised the bar for the collective. While top-scorer James Collins remains a key player, he has been helped by the presences of players such as Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in midfield providing stand-out moments that have eased the burden on him to score goals.
Furthermore, the January addition of energetic target-man Elijah Adebayo has further reduced the reliance on Collins and provided hope heading into next season that the team can return to playing regularly with two strikers up top now that they have seemingly found a long-term replacement for stalwart Danny Hylton. Although there still aren’t a lot of goals in this team, there is a greater array of players available to Nathan Jones that can provide match-winning moments.
Defensively, there has also been a collective improvement as a unit that has helped keep Luton away from danger. Most notably, goalkeeper Simon Sluga has almost completely cut-out the errors that characterised his first season at the club and is the kind of keeper that can completely shut up shop when at his best. Centre-backs, Matty Pearson and Sonny Bradley have also gotten better compared to last season, aided by the addition of summer signing, Tom Lockyer – although both Lockyer and Bradley look set to be absent for this game.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
With Luton strong in midfield and our starting formation likely to be based around packing that area of the pitch, the individual battles in the middle of the park are likely to be key here. Containing Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu looks set to be the primary concern for Liam Kelly, Matty James and Gustavo Hamer, however, there is the risk that we become too focused on shutting down the opposition and fail to support the attack in a meaningful way.
In addition, with the physical threat of Elijah Adebayo as part of a front two for Luton, our back three is likely to have a tougher time of containing Luton’s attack than they did against Derby County. While the presence of both Leo Ostigard and Kyle McFadzean in our defence will help in the physical battle, the issue is that if one or two of our centre-backs is occupied by dealing with Adebayo, it leaves space for James Collins and Luton’s midfield to exploit.
Luton’s lack of defensive options at this moment in time is a potential area of opportunity. The, albeit impressively versatile, Kal Naismith has played at centre-back recently despite being more naturally a wide player and could be targetable in individual battles with Maxime Biamou. Additionally, the resulting impact of not having a natural left-footer on the left wing limits Luton’s attacking threat in wide areas, reducing their ability to service their strike duo.