Rangers entertain Luton on Friday night in what is set up to be an exciting affair and the Sky cameras will be present (when haven’t they?). Luton travel to The KPF in decent form, winning four of their
last eight games, whilst scoring 13 goals in the process. Luton are just two points behind QPR, and it looks as if both sides are heading in a similar direction.
So, we should expect a confident side coming to the KPF. A versatile and young squad with some experienced heads – Jones has laid the foundations for a successful season for Luton on one of thelower budgets in the league. With their progression over the last two years, that’s some feat.
Nathan Jones’s side have deployed a 3-4-1-2 system for the most part this season, relying on his wing backs to provide attacking width. Unlike QPR, Luton aren’t a possession heavy side – they average 45.4% possession (20th in league) with a pass accuracy of 66.1% (22nd in league) so I’d expect Rangers to dominate the ball and try to dictate openings with quick passing combinations and trying to stretch Luton’s backline in numbers.
In terms of how they’ll line-up Nathan Jones has food for thought. The majority of the side will stay the same, but he could change the midfield up to bring in the likes of Jordan Clark to receive between the lines or bring back the suspended Henri Lansbury who can act as Luton’s main ball progressor. Then likely two of Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Allan Campbell and Gabriel Osho will feature
alongside Clark or Lansbury.
One thing Jones has in his squad is flexibility – a key coaching trait he’s
shown throughout his two Luton coaching stints- from playing brilliant football in leagues one and two to becoming an aggressive pressing, direct side that have progressed into a play-off contending
outfit. Under Nathan Jones, Luton are an efficient side in build-up. They are quite direct, particularly with long balls to the likes of Elijah Adebayo, a focal point and an athletic, mobile target man. This is
evident as Luton rank 1 st in the league for long balls per 90 (shown below), emphasising an efficient style of play Jones has implemented under one of the lowest budgets in the league.
In possession, Luton remain quite direct especially from build-up. Long balls are played down the channels for the likes of their WB’s particularly Bree and the likes of Harry Cornick and Adebayo to
chase as they split wide. As they attack the channels (77% of their attacks are from out wide), they look to create 3v2 overloads in the wide areas to sustain attacks, usually with their 10 or 8 sitting in
the half spaces (inside channels).
With Rangers lacking a real amount of pace in our backline and as an open back three, there are often spaces down the channels, and that will be something Jones will be looking to exploit as other teams have so far this season. Out of possession, Luton rank highly in terms of pressing, ranking 4 th in the league for PPDA (passes per defensive action) Luton, on average, allow the opposition 11 passes before they regain the ball.
QPR on the other hand rank sixth. This doesn’t correlate to results, but it does give you an indicator of what Luton are like out of possession, especially when QPR fans know that pressing sides are an
Achilles heel to Warburton’s system on many occasions. However, as much as an aggressive press is a tricky test, there are ways of exploiting a aggressive press, particularly when Luton mark man to man. It will need Rangers to move the ball quickly to open up a man to man orientated defence, but with a tempo setter in Stefan Johansen and technical ability in the ranks, Rangers are more than comfortable if they can replicate a second half performance against Barnsley.
Noticeably, Luton have conceded two almost identical goals in back to back games, something hopefully Rangers can replicate in some form or another.
As shown in the graphic above, is Stoke’s Barcelona-esque goal vs Luton- exploiting Luton’s man to man system with quick combinations. The ball starts with Ostigard (3) with space in Stoke’s half. Ostigard plays a short ball down the line to Smith (2) which triggers the press of Amari Bell (6) to close him down but in doing so leaves space behind him and between Sonny Bradley (5) the LCB.
Sawyers (11) loses his marker and takes advantage of the space by making a penetrating forward run where Smith finds him with a through ball. Then Jacob Brown (10) unmarked between the central
and right sided CB makes a late run into the box and arrives at the timing of Sawyers cross to score. Three passes and two forward runs off the ball to exploit the space opened up Luton to get from one
half into their final third – this is hopefully what Warburton will be wanting to look to do on Friday night.
Another thing Luton struggle with is when their wide CB’s of the three get pinned which leaves space in behind for the likes of Chair and Willock to invade but that seems an unlikely approach from
Rangers unless we play the two striker system, otherwise with both Adomah and Wallace possibly looking likely for a start, both attacking WB’s will no doubt be looking to pin Luton’s WB’s high and
open Luton up from there.
I did allude to it on the pod this week (RGeneration on air – go check it out!) that I don’t think playing Kakay in the LWB position is the worst idea tactically. Luton like to play balls down the channels and playing a more defence minded WB that can defend and cover the space could benefit nicely – particularly when we use Adomah as our source of attacking output since the attacking balance has shifted. Whilst Wallace may seem the ideal candidate- a 34 yr old recovering from a long term injury and up against an aggressive pressing side doesn’t feel like a suitable game just to throw a player back in who has only played 60 minutes in the U23’s prior to Friday’s game.
Luton like to attack down the channels with long, direct balls to chase
Luton are a direct, aggressive pressing side, with a man to man orientation
Vulnerable when pinned high and there are spaces to invade
They like to create overloads in wide areas, dropping a midfielder or split striker into pockets
The man to man orientation can be vulnerable with movement and quick combinations
Overall, this is a very tough game. We know what to expect from Luton and I hope Warburton reacts to Luton’s aggressive press and direct, physical nature. As I said on the podcast, I think it will be a 1-1
Written by Daniel Lambert (@damlambert_)