We continue our series on the newly-promoted Premier League sides with this look at Luton Town’s defensive options for 2023/24.
You can read a profile of Luton as a team and their manager Rob Edwards, with fan input from FPL Brickie, here.
The stats in this piece are taken from WhoScored, Fotmob and FBref.
WHAT IS LUTON’S DEFENSIVE POTENTIAL IN FPL?
While their attack only ranks as the Championship’s joint-eighth-best of 2022/23, it was at the back where Luton excelled.
Only champions Burnley conceded fewer goals and kept more clean sheets than the Hatters’ 39 and 20 respectively. Nine of the initial 46 matches saw them let in multiple goals.
Interestingly, considering most post-promotion focus has been on their small, unfashionable stadium, Luton were better away from Kenilworth Road for both points and goals conceded. No team allowed their hosts to score less often (18).
|2022/23 total (rank v other |
|Clean sheets||20 (2nd=)|
|Goals conceded||39 (2nd)|
|Shots conceded||487 (7th)|
|Shots on target conceded||122 (1st)|
|Goals conceded from open play||20 (1st=)|
|Goals conceded from set plays and penalties||13 (7th=)|
|Expected goals conceded (xGC)||43.80 (2nd)|
Furthermore, nobody relinquished fewer shots on target (122) or goals from open play (20), Luton also ranking second for expected goals conceded (xGC, 43.80).
Things are set to be much tougher in the top flight, although recent seasons usually see one of the three promoted defences coping fairly well. For example, the Fulham of last season (Bernd Leno admittedly had much to do with their achievements), 2021/22’s Brentford, the Sheffield United of 2019/20 and Wolverhampton Wanderers from 2018/19.
2022/23: DEFENSIVE APPS, GOALS AND ASSISTS
|Player||Position||Starts (Sub apps)||Mins||Goals||Assists|
|Tom Lockyer||CB||42 (0)||3638||4||1|
|Gabriel Osho||CB||25 (5)||2273||3||0|
|Alfie Doughty||LWB||28 (3)||2438||2||5|
|Reece Burke||CB||15 (7)||1417||2||0|
|Amari’i Bell||CB/LWB||46 (1)||4167||1||1|
|Daniel Potts||CB||24 (2)||2020||1||0|
|Cody Drameh||RWB||19 (0)||1581||0||2|
|James Bree*||RWB||27 (0)||2430||0||4|
*has now left the club
Of most interest will be Alfie Doughty.
He’s played in a number of positions in his nomadic career (Luton are his fourth Championship club and he’s still only 23), from left-winger to full-back.
But it’s at left-wing-back where he was deployed in the Hatters’ promotion-winning campaign.
It took until their 15th match for the summer signing to get his first start but he went on to become a big part of their attacking plan, becoming a favourite of Edwards after his autumn appointment.
Getting the ball out wide to the wing-backs for crosses has been key to Luton’s approach.
No Hatters players have averaged more touches per 90 minutes under Edwards than their wing-backs, Doughty and Cody Drameh.
Indeed, Doughty’s rate of 41.3 minutes per chance created is the best of the squad that Edwards still has at his disposal:
|Player||Position||Apps||Mins||Mins per chance created|
*now left the club
His average of 2.4 accurate crosses per game was also unbeaten in the whole of the Championship.
As for goal threat, a shot every 76.2 minutes was the best of the Luton defenders in 2022/23 and a decent rate. For context, that’s a similar average to what Ivan Perisic was posting this season (albeit in a more competitive league).
Left-footed, Doughty is on most set-pieces and FPL should categorise him as a defender given the wing-back role – but high-profile mistakes have been made with newly promoted players in the past…
If he is listed as a defender, Doughty could become an interesting pick, with Luton having just boasted the Championship’s second-best backline.
Centre-back Tom Lockyer has captained the side in the absence of the exiting Sonny Bradley and stepped up at the right time by scoring in three of his last four appearances – which doesn’t include his very early withdrawal at Wembley’s play-off final.
Further news is awaited on what the reasons were behind his collapse in the win over Coventry City but he has been discharged from hospital and is expected to return for pre-season training.
The Wales international recently scooped several versions of the club’s ‘Player of the Season’ awards, so he should be the most nailed-on centre-back at the club in the coming campaign.
He’s one of Luton’s main threats from set plays, with 26 of his 32 efforts coming from free-kicks and corners.
That shot total (32) was matched by Doughty in much less game-time, however.
Ranking third for clearances and joint-fifth for blocks in the Championship last season, he might also be good for a bonus point or two if and when Luton keep a clean sheet.
An anticipated price of £4.5m feels about right for Lockyer ahead of his debut Premier League campaign.
Gabriel Osho had a stop-start campaign thanks to injury and suspension but was ended up first choice as the right-sided centre-half.
Creating little from centre-back (despite the occasional foray forward) and lagging just behind Lockyer for minutes per shot (118.5 v 113.7) as well as clearances, blocks and interceptions, he’d be a harder sell as a Fantasy asset if he’s priced up the same as his team-mates.
He did find the net on three occasions, at least, including once in the play-off semi-final.
Amari’i Bell finished the season as a left-sided centre-back but was playing in Doughty’s position for a while.
He started 46 of Luton’s 49 league and play-off matches, bagging a solitary goal and assist.
Less of a goal threat than Doughty, Lockyer and even Osho, he averaged a shot only once every 275.7 minutes.
His assist potential was predictably skewed by his stint at wing-back, with only seven of his 29 chances created arriving from centre-half.
ETHAN HORVATH + CODY DRAMEH
Two loanees are grouped together here as there is uncertainty about whether either player will be donning a Luton shirt next season, despite them playing pivotal roles in the promotion-winning campaign.
Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath started all but two of this season’s league matches, bringing Champions League experience to Edwards’ side.
Luton and West Bromwich Albion stoppers combined to make the joint-fewest stops (92) and Horvath’s 74.2% save rate ranked fourth-best.
In matching with the Hatters’ direct playing style, goal kicks had an average length of 57.8 yards – perhaps that route-one approach could even lead to an FPL assist or two.
Should his move be made permanent, Horvath could be among the leading £4.5m contenders between the sticks, aiming for the sweet spot between not playing for a leaky backline but still collecting regular save points.
As for Cody Drameh, we’ve already discussed in Doughty’s section how important wing-backs are to Edwards’ side.
Operating on the right flank, Drameh joined Luton on loan in January and was immediately thrust into his new manager’s starting XI.
Also playing a role at set plays, his chance creation rate was not too far off Doughty’s (55.4 v 41.3 mins per chance created).
Goal attempts were few and far between, however, with just seven shots (four of which were from outside the area) arriving in his 19 appearances.
Sonny Bradley has now left the club after the expiration of his contract, the club captain and one-time regular at centre-half having his season decimated by injury and then reduced to being a back-up option when fit.
Reserve centre-backs are also what Daniel Potts and Reece Burke effectively became under Edwards, although neither was too far away from the first team.
A hamstring injury to Potts in January caused a three-month absence, with the successes of Doughty/Bell down the left flank meaning that he never regained his place in the run-in.
It was a toss-up between Burke and Osho for the right-sided centre-back role for a while, too, although the latter cemented his place for the play-offs.