Rob Edwards has now been in charge for 13 games, with 9 in the league and 4 in the FA Cup. It is best we don't talk about the FA Cup, but so far it has been smooth sailing in the league, with 6 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses, and the Town sit comfortably in the playoffs 3 points ahead of them lot down the road, with a game in hand. While it was sad to see Nathan Jones leave yet again for new opportunities, his absence so far has not been felt much, and some may argue it is refreshing to see a new manager with new ideas come in. In this article I will discuss the positive changes Edwards has implemented to the impressive Hatters team he has inherited.
A calmer presence on the touchline
Nathan Jones time at Southampton has exposed one of his deficiencies as a manager, which is that he lets his emotions get the best of him (repeatedly he has defended his managerial credentials and his style of football.)
It is refreshing to see a calmer presence on the touchline, where there is less nail biting, jumping and screaming. Rob Edwards attitude in press conferences has also been reassuring and calming, and it was great when he told the press to drop the 'underdogs' tag given to Luton, and instead stated the fact that he is managing a very talented and hard working group of players who are simply performing to their level.
We all loved Nathan Jones passion and his drama but for the players and fans someone who keeps a level headed figure can be more beneficial. Some may say it doesn't matter how a manager presents themselves, but as mentioned before, Nathan Jones ill fated stint at Southampton is an example of a manager who couldn't keep calm, lashing out to the press constantly (embellishing his Luton Town stats), and reportedly having bust ups in training, losing the youth players as well as the experienced pros, which also had some role in him getting sacked. Only at the end of games does the new Luton manager relax and show his passion for the club, something Jones also did, although Edwards has kept the chest thumping to a minimum so far.
A more attacking mentality
Only once have Luton failed to score since Edwards was appointed, which was in the abysmal 3-0 loss to Grimsby, and while it is unfortunate to lose like that at least it was in the cup. The Hatters have scored an impressive 20 goals in the first 13 games of the new manager's reign, and there is clearly an emphasis on playing the ball on the floor more. There is still the occasional long ball, as it makes sense to launch balls over the top when Morris and Adebayo both play for your team, but predominantly the emphasis is to calmly play it out from the back. But especially at home, Luton intend to play out from the back more, with the back 3 all adept at retaining and distributing the ball around the pitch. Players like Doughty, Pelly, Clark and Burke all are encouraged to drive forward with the ball many times per game, to progress the ball up the pitch.
A good example of this mentality was when Woodrow was subbed on against Norwich, when the score was 1-1 and Norwich were gaining the upper hand. Edwards bold move to bring a striker on instead of settling for the draw paid dividends as Woodrow ended up scoring the winner.
It is not like these are all radical new changes, as under Nathan Jones' Luton also looked to play on the front foot and play out from the back, but under Rob Edwards there is clearly an increase in attacking mentality characterised by wing backs pushed high up the pitch, also evidenced by the large number of goals scored so far. To put the 20 goals stat into context, before Edwards had arrived, the Town had scored 25 goals in 22 games since the season started, so the fact that we are already on 20 goals since then shows the effect the new manager has had on goalscoring.
Loans coming through the door
Two Premier League quality loans coming in January was another welcome change to the club, as while Jones did utilise loans, they didn't come often, with only Kiernan Dewsbury Hall and Horvath examples of successful loans since he came back to the club. Nakamba and Drameh will surely be a huge help to Luton's playoff push, and hopefully Edwards makes use of loans again in the summer, depending on which league we are playing.
Nottingham Forest who got promoted last year had four loan players in their starting team for the playoff final win. This shows that loan signings can be the difference between promotion and missing out, and it is encouraging to already see Edwards making more loan signings than Nathan Jones would have made last window, judging by his comment that "we don't take loans, but we felt that when there's an opportunity to really improve, then we take that gamble." This was said after the loan signing of Ethan Horvath in the summer.
The hesitance to sign loan players was characterised by only signing a goalkeeper on loan last summer, although the string of goalkeeper loans last season was mitigated by the injury crisis that swept through our goalkeepers union. Moving forward, Luton Town should be an attractive destination for Premier League clubs to send their players for a season, and as seen by Bree a few seasons ago, some loans can even become permanent, and if they don't sign permanently, as shown by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, the player can greatly benefit and greatly improve. Let's hope we continue to see more players like Nakamba and Drameh come in, as they could prove to be the difference between playoffs and no playoffs..
Overall, while Nathan Jones did an incredible job for Luton Town, but Rob Edwards has benefitted the club so far, feeling like a breath of fresh air after the intense on/off again romance with Nathan Jones. Small but positive tweaks have been made to the team. Long may it continue.
By Samuel Roy