Why Luton Town man is more than deserving of his Premier League opportunity
Luke Berry's Luton Town journey will continue into the Premier League following confirmation that the midfielder has penned down a fresh deal at Kenilworth Road. The 30-year-old, who the Hatters picked up from Cambridge United in 2017, has amassed over 150 appearances in Town colours, and whilst not always a regular starter in the Championship, he remains a much-loved figure who is deserving of his top-flight opportunity.
A key source of goals over the years, and some important ones too, Berry's relentless pressing and displays of out-of-possession bravery embodies the Luton Town spirit and that is a massive reason as to why the midfielder is held in high regard by the Town fanbase, even when he has struggled for consistent game time. Lots will remember his tackle late on during the 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough during the latter stages of the season, where he sensed danger, instinctively charged towards the action and timed his challenge to perfection as Matt Crooks looked destined to find the back of the net - the most recent showing of his off the ball relentlessness.
Looking at his goalscoring record from over the past two seasons, Berry has netted nine times, but when you consider that has come from just 1,375 minutes of football, you can start to appreciate how effective he is in the final third.
Breaking these numbers down even further, across the past two seasons, Bezza has averaged a goal every 153 minutes of Championship action, which is a return that top strikers could be proud of. To add some further context, Luton's 20-goal striker Carlton Morris averaged a goal every 170 minutes during last season's promotion-winning campaign.
A clean striker of the ball, Berry's excellent movement is particularly vital in the midfielder creating openings for himself over the years, and you only have to cast your mind back to the 2-2 draw with Millwall at Kenilworth Road last season to remember how intelligently he picked up space in-between the midfield and defensive lines, taking the ball on the half turn to fire an effort into the bottom-right corner.
Berry has gained this reputation of being in the right place at the right time and those players who have developed this tag over the years will be quick to remind you that it is no coincidence that they are perfectly positioned when the ball drops at their feet. His excellent levels of anticipation and understanding of the game ensure that he continually arrives on time.
Assessing his 2022/23 data even further, Berry proved to be in the top 2% of Championship midfielders for non-penalty goals and expected non-penalty goals (both per 90), which is a credit to his ability in front of goal and knack for being well-placed in the area. He also ranked within the top 5% of second tier midfielders for shots taken per 90.
On the flip side of things, the Luton midfielder was only in the second and third percentiles for passes attempted and passes completed per 90, whilst he was also in the bottom 10% for progressive carries per 90. Whilst possessing a good technical ability, the data highlights the job that Berry has been required to do for quite some time, and that is to get into scoring positions and score the club some goals. Berry is also within the top 1% for aerial duels won per 90 and in the top 6% for touches in the opposing penalty area per 90.
Interestingly, the excellent defensive/out-of-possession service Berry provides can be backed up by the numbers, with Berry ranking in the top 2% of Championship midfielders for blocks per 90 and in the top 15% for clearances per 90, with his fantastic discipline, ability to detect and snuff out danger being appreciated hugely by the Town support.
Berry has had to adapt to three different levels of English football with the Hatters thus far, providing magical moments in all three thus far, and it is now time to see what kind of impact the 30-year-old can have in the world's greatest and most competitive division of football.
Featured image: Copyright of Gareth Owen/LTFC