Threadbare at the back. How does the injury crisis impact Luton Town moving forward?
The Luton Town players were visibly devastated as a result of their captain going down with a serious looking injury, as a result of Yakou Meite’s unnecessary push on Sonny Bradley as he challenged for a routine aerial ball. Fortunately Sonny Bradley confirmed on twitter that he was "very lucky to come away with no break or ligament damage", however, Bradley also confirmed that recovery starts now, and with it remaining unclear as to how long he will remain sidelined, the Town are now looking threadbare at the back, and signing defensive reinforcements is surely top priority. The backline at the end of the Reading game consisted of; Amari’i Bell, primarily a left wing back playing at left centre back, James Bree, a right wing back, who you want as high up the pitch as possible due to his key pass success, playing right centre back, and Dan Potts, traditionally a full back, but recently transitioned to left centre back, playing in the middle of the three defenders. Although we experienced a similar makeshift backline towards the end of last season, one key difference this time, is that we have only played 18 games of the 22/23 campaign. Ultimately, playing Bell and Bree as part of the back three instead of their more natural positions at wing backs, will not only impact us going forward, but ultimately at the back. Bell has shown all hatters his ability to drive forward with the ball on the left wing, a facet of his game which is limited when playing at left centre back. Bree is often seen playing very high up the right wing, often hugging the touchline alongside our forwards. Bree has often been relocated to the right centre back position this season due to the persistent injury problems experienced by Reece Burke and Gabe Osho. Against Reading I was relieved to see a back line of Potts, Bradley and Lockyer, as it led to Bree being put back into his most effective position, as wing back. However, after Bradley’s early injury, the pack had to be shuffled with Lockyer moving to the middle, and Bree moving to the right of the back 3.
The loss of Kal Naismith, and the transfer of Peter Kioso, with no additional defender being brought in pre season, concerned all Hatters, especially after the injury crisis we experienced at the end of last season, which is happening again, most likely a result of our high intensity and relentless pressing. There are three possible solutions:
Defenders Kal Naismith & Peter Kioso left Luton Town in the summer and haven't been replaced | Photos copyright of Gareth Owen/LTFC
Change formation. We simply do not have the personnel to fulfil the 3-5-2 formation, Bradley is likely to remain sidelined until the World Cup break, and the lack of information regarding Burke, is concerning. Tom Lockyer was also forced off with an injury against Reading, fortunately, it’s been confirmed that it wasn’t a concussion. Gabe Osho still has one more match to serve in his suspension, which means for Blackpool, our only fit registered defenders are; Potts, Bree and Bell. Potentially we could sign Michael Hector, but no further developments have been revealed since he was spotted training with Luton last week.
Promote players from our development squad. Avan Jones, and Josh Williams are the only defenders that have been on the periphery of the first team squad, both appearing on the bench since last season, but only Williams has made his competitive debut, in the Carabao Cup against Newport County. This is a very unlikely scenario, as Nathan Jones has shown, over his two periods at the helm, that he isn’t overly inclined to blood youth, apart from the exceptional case of James Justin, but still a result of an injury to our regular left back Dan Potts.
Square pegs in round holes. This is the most likely scenario. Players will be relocated around the pitch, we saw this with the Newport County cup game. Lansbury was deployed in the middle of the back 3, perhaps we will see this again, but with Pelly? Luke Berry, playing in the DM role? Bell and Bree keeping the positions that they finished the Reading game? Both Bell and Bree are perfectly serviceable as left and right centre backs in our system, but when they play so deep, we are losing two integral components of how our tactical set up. As the injury crisis continues to bite, we have to wait till 2pm on Saturday to see what’s going to happen up at Blackpool.
Featured images: Copyright of Gareth Owen/LTFC