Preview: Luton Town

Another unexpected delay in this peculiar season for Coventry City leaves the team needing to quickly regain focus in order to get up and running for the campaign. Winless in five matches to start the season and conceding at a rate of well over two goals a game, the Sky Blues are going only one way unless things change. This re-start, beginning with this trip to Luton Town, has to mark a reversal in both mentality and approach.

While Luton Town have underwhelmed somewhat to begin their campaign, and are yet to win on their own turf, last year’s 5-0 shellacking at their place should underline that they are not a team to be underestimated. An intense and well-motivated team-unit, any sign of timidity or weakness from Coventry City will be swiftly pounced upon here.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-1) Wilson; Rose, McFadzean, Doyle; Dabo, Allen, Sheaf, Hamer, Bidwell; Palmer; Gyokeres.
Possible Line-Up

As much as Coventry City are in desperate need of a shake-up in their quest to get going this season, Mark Robins’ options to do so are limited. This is a team that has been built over a number of years to fit one or two formations, any big tactical changes right now would risk exposing deficiencies in other areas of the squad.

The most obvious change to many would be a move to a back four, which Mark Robins has shifted to on several occasions already this season as he has looked to chase games. However, a lack of natural wide players means that a move that risks leaving the defence even more exposed than it is currently wouldn’t guarantee an improvement in attack. That is why the manager seems likely to stick with the current shape until it is untenable to do so.

The biggest area of interest heading into this game is just how the defence lines up. Most notably, Michael Rose has been in the firing line of late due to some underwhelming to poor showings. The problem with dropping Rose is that there isn’t a right-footed central defender to replace him. Additionally, the most likely candidate to come in for the Scot, Jonathan Panzo, has struggled as much as anyone else in the defence this season.

With this set to be a challenging away game, it is likely that Mark Robins will persist with the cautious attacking set-up that was intended to keep things tight against Norwich City. A key change will likely be Viktor Gyokeres taking Tyler Walker’s place as the lone front-man, that is unless the manager decides it remains a good idea to attempt to avoid picking his best team out of fear of players not being fit for future games.

Last Time We Met

If Michael Rose is looking to put together a convincing case to keep his place in the side, he will have to hope that Mark Robins will not be using last March’s home game against Luton Town to inform his selection process for this upcoming clash. In a tight game where Coventry City were marginally on top, Rose allowed a regulation punt up pitch to sail over his head, providing Luton’s Elijah Adebayo with a clean run on goal to finish with a level of composure the Sky Blues could only dream of.

From that point onwards, Coventry City huffed and puffed at a determined Luton Town defence but couldn’t find a way through. It was one of several games last season where the Sky Blues’ complete lack of composure in the final third killed off their play-off hopes.

The Opposition

The Manager – Nathan Jones

Getting Luton Town into the play-offs last season would be seen by many as well beyond what the Hatters could realistically achieve, Nathan Jones would disagree. After a summer of strong recruitment, the ambition at Kenilworth Road is clear, to go one better than last year. While it hasn’t been a fluent start to the campaign for the Hatters, performances have been better than results – with Expected Goals tables placing them around 6th place, prior to Tuesday’s Championship games.

Luton Town are an intense pressing side who are smart in possession, meaning that they can choke the life out of opponents before quickly working chances on goal. After a number of relatively high-profile attacking signings over the summer, it is that area of the team that has yet to click. On the plus side, the Hatters’ ability to take a stranglehold of games has kept things tight at the back and means that it will only take a smattering of inspiration further forward for them to start winning games more consistently.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Horvath; Osho, Lockyer, Potts; Bree, Clark, Freeman, Bell; Campbell; Morris, Adebayo.
Possible Line-Up

The additions of Carlton Morris, Cauley Woodrow and Luke Freeman this summer have added to what was already an impressive attacking unit at Kenilworth Road. The, surprisingly skilful, target-man, Carlton Morris has found some good early form for the Hatters, adding another physical threat to their attack beyond the giant Elijah Adebayo and the prodigiously hard-working Harry Cornick. Additionally, Luke Freeman’s intelligent use of the ball just behind the front-men has been a useful source of guile this campaign.

It is Luton Town’s ability to rotate and mix-up their attacking players that potentially makes them so threatening this season. In a congested fixture list, the ability to rotate between four starting XI quality strikers – in Adebayo, Cornick, Morris and Woodrow – could be the key hand Nathan Jones will be able to play this year. On top of that, in Cameron Jerome, Luke Freeman and, rapid winger, Fred Onyedinma, Luton’s manager has further options to change up the shape of the attack depending on the opposition.

In midfield, Luton Town have a number of really smart and energetic ball-players. Even with key-man, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu injured. Gabriel Osho has impressed as a midfield sitter, while tyro, Allan Campbell, can really get in the faces of opponents. On top of that, the likes of Jordan Clark, Luke Berry and Henri Lansbury can rotate and dovetail with the ball nicely throughout games.

At the back, Luton Town are less about star individuals than they are their organisation and collective desire to defend. Reece Burke, Sonny Bradley and Tom Lockyer are all pretty solid players for this level, while flying full-backs, James Bree and Amari’i Bell are both capable defenders in their own right. In goal, the loan signing of American international, Ethan Horvath, from Nottingham Forest is already looking a good piece of business.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

Luton Town will likely have viewed Coventry City’s recent defeat against Norwich City with relish. With two goals conceded after being caught by a high-pressing opponent, Luton will look to squeeze the Sky Blues high up the pitch and put pressure on the team as they look to play out from the back. It may be an idea to eschew that approach for this game, but Mark Robins has been loath to do so over the past year.

Whether or not Coventry City look to go for a more direct approach, Viktor Gyokeres is going to be a very important player for the team here in this game. If he is left to play up front on his own, he is going to have to be on top form to get change out of Luton Town’s aggressive and well-organised defensive unit. If he comes out second in that battle, it will only encourage the home side further in their desire to press the life out of the Sky Blues.

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