Blackpool Review: Tactical Changes
This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against Fulham (11/12/21), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
Last Saturday’s win against Blackpool was coming – despite the run of four games without a win leading up to Luton’s trip to face the Tangerines, unlike the weather, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
The defeat to QPR two weeks before was a very good all-round performance decided by the fine margins that define the Championship, the tie three days later at the historic City Ground a similarly tight affair with the Hatter’s missing a penalty after Forest went down to ten men.
So, it came as no surprise when the Hatters turned in a resilient away performance coupled with three moments of quality to win the game and end their winless run courtesy of goals from Sonny Bradley, Elijah Adebayo and Jordan Clark.
Despite the recent good performance levels (barring the 2-1 defeat to Cardiff), Nathan Jones opted to tweak Luton’s starting system and personnel. For most of the season, Luton have operated with two out-and-out forwards, usually Elijah Adebayo and Harry Cornick, with three central players behind them, often with one of these operating behind the forwards.
In an attempt to turn the tide, Jones switched to using Elijah Adebayo as a lone striker with two players behind him in Jordan Clark and Carlos Mendes Gomes working in slightly wider spaces, with only two central midfielders. How did this change the dynamic of Luton’s attack?
Using Mendes-Gomes and Clark as opposed to Cornick gave Luton additional cleverness in the final third. Rather than a game plan that looked to primarily exploit spaces in behind the opposition’s backline, Luton’s two wide ‘roamers’ provided the technical quality to receive in pockets of space and create opportunities in and around the box. It’s what Mendes-Gomes did so well at Morecambe last season – dropping his shoulder, playing clever passes into forward areas and executing final deliveries.
Using Kal Naismith through the middle of the back three, as opposed to the left, gave Luton the ability to build from central positions because Blackpool allowed the Hatter’s central centre-back to have space on the ball, much like Middlesbrough back in early November.
Out of possession, Luton started with a slightly wider press that emphasised forcing Blackpool to their right by pushing Jordan Clark high and dropping Mendes-Gomes and Amari’i Bell deeper to funnel Blackpool away from their left.
Once again, Nathan Jones showed his in game tactical nous and flexibility, switching to a 5-3-2 at half-time to ensure that Blackpool stopped creating 3v2’s against Henri Lansbury and Allan Campbell. Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu was introduced to deal with the mobile Keshi Anderson as Luton’s manager re-organised his side’s press to stop Blackpool building through central areas.
Tactically, it was a very solid performance and Luton largely controlled their opponents.
Despite the recent drop in form, the Hatters are in a good place – 12th in the Championship after 21 games, underlying metrics that show high volume chance creation and a sturdy defence, and a young squad that will continue to blossom. Long may it continue.