Luton Town midfield audit - What is needed?
Luton have not often dominated possession, with the club at the lower end of the table with 46.6% last season (transfermarkt) but the midfield has always been a hard working unit which is exceptional at protecting the defence, and relaying the ball off to the wing backs and strikers. At the moment the Luton midfield looks a bit thin, but by the time the season comes around it should be well suited to the demands of the Premier League.
Rob Edwards and midfielder Jordan Clark | Photo copyright of Luton Town/Gareth Owen
Luton Town's current defensive options
Jordan Clark - Signed a new contract in March
With Nakamba having temporarily returned to Villa, there is no doubt that Clicker is the Hatters best midfielder. Clark will likely be starting next season, and with good reason. The former winger has turned into an extraordinary midfielder, who is superb at carrying the ball forwards, tackling and scoring goals in important moments, such as when he became the 9th Luton player to score at Wembley for our historic promotion playoff win. He also contributed a respectable 3 goals and 4 assists last season, Clark has become a strong attacking threat Luton possess from midfield.
Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu - In talks for a new contract
The Luton journeyman is in talks for a new contract, which surely gets done. Pelly receives a lot of media attention nowadays for going from non-league to Premier League, but let's not forget his footballing talents. The box to box magician, who is also capable of playing further back, has a knack for scoring screamers. Pelly has 23 goals and 34 assists in 367 Luton appearances, and he has surely earned the title of modern day Luton legend. The DR Congo international has more than deserved his chance to represent the Hatters in the Premier League, and he was pivotal last season, having won his place back from Allan Campbell in the second half of last season.
Campbell had another impressive season for the Hatters, 3 goals and 2 assists including an exhilarating goal to put our fierce rivals Watford to bed. He has recently lost his place to Pelly, but he is a brilliant option to bring off the bench, due to how hard he works and his relentless pressing. The Scottish Kante will also get his fair share of starts due to injuries and rotations in the midfield.
Luke Berry - Signed a new deal 23rd June
Berry put pen to paper a few hours before this article was written, and it is lovely to see a player who has been with the club since League Two rewarded with a new deal. Despite Berry not playing much this season, he still chipped in with some vital goals against Millwall, Blackpool and Rotherham. A useful player to bring off the bench, due to his goalscoring ability, but he may also receive a handful of starts.
The experienced attacking midfielder is a player that hasn't been utilised as often under Edwards. Freeman played a lot early in the season, under Nathan Jones, yet he is now used most as someone to bring on to close out games, with his ability to keep the ball a valuable asset. He should get quite a few games off the bench next season.
Louie Watson - could be loaned
Watson was tidy in the few games he played in last season,with his passing and ability to retain the ball impressing. However, a loan move would be best for him, as Luton will likely bring in a few midfielders, moving him down the pecking order.
Elliot Thorpe - could be loaned/sold
Thorpe is definitely a talented midfielder but he hasn't had much of a chance at Luton to get going, with a lot of his minutes coming in cup games. His loan spell at Burton wasn't successful either, so sending him out on loan again is probably best, although it wouldn't be surprising to see him leave in search of first team football.
What midfield recruitment could look like at Luton Town this summer:
As you can see above, we have got the squad depth chart out again. Berry has officially signed a new contract so it's not fully up to date but you can see how light we are in midfield at the moment, especially with Thorpe and Watson likely to be loaned. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Nakamba is reportedly very close to joining. Players like Emiliano Martinez from FC Midtjylland (in Denmark, not the keeper!), James McArthur and Tahith Chong have been linked as potential midfield reinforcements.
With Nakamba apparently close to signing, Luton only really need to add another central midfielder or two. Pelly could sufficiently backup Nakamba, although it wouldn't be surprising to see the club bring in another defensive midfielder. A player who can provide key passes to the forwards would be a welcome addition, someone with a creative spark to go alongside the workhorses that are Pelly, Campbell, Clark and Nakamba.
The premium options Luton should consider are Gustavo Hamer and Lewis O'Brien. Hamer has showed his quality all of last season, with 11 goals and 10 assists an incredible record from midfield for Coventry. The problem is that fellow Premier League clubs may be able to outbid Luton and offer higher wages, so O'Brien might be a more attainable transfer. Cast out at Nottingham Forest, they are looking to trim their squad, so the signing of O'Brien shouldn't be too hard, although like Hamer, Luton haven't been linked so far.
Nakamba joining (which looks likely) would be a very reassuring signing, and a Pelly - Nakamba - Clark midfield wouldn't be bad in the Premier League. But the club should probably sign one or two midfielders on top of that to increase the quality, while loaning out Thorpe and Watson.
By Samuel Roy