Should Luton Town be promoted from the Championship to the Premier League, top flight football will return to Kenilworth Road for the first time since the inception of the Premier League.
In the decade which preceded the 1992/93 season, Luton had been present as a top flight club in every year until their relegation as Coventry City assured themselves of Premier League status in the inaugural season.
30 years later, it is Coventry trying to play catch-up with Luton and the rest of the clubs who currently hold a play-off spot in the Championship, with the Hatters also within range of the automatic promotion places with eight matches remaining.
Promotion seems a very real reality for head coach Rob Edwards, who started the season at arch-rivals Watford where he lasted only 11 matches in charge before being sacked.
Key to Luton’s prospects has been the 3-4-1-2 formation that Edwards has not deviated from as the successor to Nathan Jones, sticking with a front two of Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo that has proved to be highly effective in their promotion push.
Morris leads the team in goalscoring with 16 and has proven to be a shrewd signing following his arrival last summer from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee after they had been relegated. Together with Adebayo, Morris plays a key role as a central outlet for Luton while Adebayo tends to work in the channel.
Luton attempt the third highest create contest passes in the Championship, with a total of 2,225 pass attempts under this pass type. That is ahead of the league average of 1,625.6 but behind Rotherham (2,343) and Millwall (2,296).
That direct element of Luton’s play has led to Morris and Adebayo both occupying top five placements in PFF’s possessions in the penalty area metric – the only club to have more than one player at such a high level. Morris has possessed the ball 161 times in the opposition box and Adebayo is not too far off that figure on 157.
The pay-off of this is Luton being able to create 348 chances at goal, the 11th-highest in the league, which is a rank that also matches with where they stand in shot attempts as a team (452). So, with mid-table ranks for chance creation and shot attempts, how have Morris and Adebayo effected Luton’s attack which has produced a team total of 46 goals.
Carlton Morris grade: 92.2 (position rank: 2nd/111) / Elijah Adebayo grade: 68.0 (59th/111)
Morris’ career-best tally of 16 goals has also reaped an elite shooting grade of 92.2 that has been vital to Luton being on track to secure a second-consecutive top six finish in the Championship.
The Norwich City academy product, now 27, has not been shy of playing against in-form teams with goals coming in both fixtures against Sheffield United, as well as Coventry, Blackburn, Norwich, Sunderland and West Brom.
Of the 14 strikers to have attempted at least 60 shot attempts, Morris’ true shots on target accuracy rate of 65% ranks ninth but only Swansea’s Joël Piroe holds both a higher true shot accuracy (70%) and shooting grade 94.6 across the two categories.
|Name||Club||Shots||Shots p-90||Shots grade|
|Joël Piroe||Swansea City||88||3||94.6|
|Carlton Morris||Luton Town||70||2.6||92.2|
|Oliver McBurnie||Sheffield United||72||3.4||86.8|
|Elijah Adebayo||Luton Town||71||2.2||68.0|
For Adebayo, a 2021 signing from League Two club Walsall for an undisclosed fee, his true shot rate of 59% ranks joint-11th and is on equal par with Millwall’s Tom Bradshaw and QPR’s Lyndon Dykes.
However, his shot grade of 68.0 trails Bradshaw’s 86.1 and Dykes’ 79.3.
Carlton Morris grade: 59.9 (position rank: 29th/123) / Elijah Adebayo grade: 58.2 (48th/123)
These grades may seem low compared to other facets typically which typically see at least one grade above 80.0, but among all forwards in the Championship the highest-graded player in PFF challenge grade is Reading’s Andy Carroll at 77.7.
The dominance of central defenders in the league underlies this trend, with seven players at the position earning a challenge grade of 90.0 or higher.
Morris and Adebayo have contested the second and third highest number of challenges among forwards at 633 and 618 each in total. There is a clear disparity in the number of tackle events the two have been involved in, with Adebayo’s 117 outnumbering Morris’ 69.
This points towards Adebayo being the main player in going to press an opponent who has established themselves as a ball carrier in build-up phase. In terms of per-90 rates, Adebayo is involved in 3.6 tackles per-90 compared to Morris’ 2.1.
As for aerial duels, Morris has been the busier of the strike duo with 482 to Adebayo’s 430 which splits into per-90 rates of 14.6 to 13.1.
Have Luton stayed direct under Rob Edwards?
If we query whether Luton have stayed direct in their play under Edwards similar to how Nathan Jones left the team, there has been a minor reduction in the team's average number of aerial duels per-game.
In games where Jones was in charge this season, Luton averaged 76.1 aerial duels per-game compared to 75.0 under Edwards, who guided Forest Green Rovers to the League Two title last season.
By comparison, there is a more significant difference in the team's passing with the 56.4 create contest passes attempted per-game under Edwards lower than the 60.3 under Jones.
With games against rivals Watford, Millwall, Middlesbrough and Blackburn to come in their season run-in, the high levels of shooting quality and off-ball involvement contributed by Morris and Adebayo will factor into whether Rob Edwards can bring Premier League football to Kenilworth Road.