Ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League season, Alex Keble takes an in-depth look at each of the 20 clubs.
Luton Town were agonisingly close to being one of the founder members of the Premier League, suffering relegation just weeks before the competition was formed in 1992.
It has taken 31 years to get back in the top flight.
There isn’t a single Luton supporter worried by the predictions suggesting they won’t stay up, or by the modest net spend of approximately £18million so far this summer. They have waited a very long time for this and they intend to enjoy it no matter the outcome.
Kenilworth Road, the smallest stadium in Premier League history, is hastily undergoing renovations so that it complies with the division’s regulations.
That gives some indication as to how unexpected Luton’s promotion was – and how colossal the task facing Rob Edwards.
Their players and fans will relish every second of it.
Performance last season
|FA Cup||Fourth round|
|EFL Cup||First round|
PL performance last five seasons
|L1 1st||Champ 19th||Champ 12th||Champ 6th||Champ 3rd|
How to improve on 2022/23
When Edwards took charge in November last year, Luton were ninth in the Championship and, with Nathan Jones having again jumped ship, few thought a 39-year-old who lasted 11 matches at Watford would be the man to finish the job.
All of this is a bonus, but that doesn’t mean Luton are doomed. Their mean defence, set-piece prowess, and hard-running style may benefit from the element of surprise; it’s been a long time since a team this direct have barrelled into the top flight.
Luton will need to find more goals, mind. They scored 61 in the Championship last season, including the playoffs, at a rate of just 1.13 per match, so assuming they will concede a lot more this season those goalscoring numbers need to climb.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is adapting the set-up to meet their new place in the hierarchy. Aggressive, front-foot defending might be a little dangerous this year.
Analysis: Luton trio can step up
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Luton find themselves shrinking into an ever-deeper defensive shell as the season goes on.
Luton have signed seven players this summer, the most important being a pair of new wing-backs, Ryan Giles (pictured above) and Issa Kabore.
Left-back Giles amassed 11 assists on loan from Wolves at Middlesbrough last season, while right-back Kabore, arriving on a loan deal from Manchester City, impressed at Marseille in 2022/23.
Tahith Chong, pictured top, a former Manchester United Academy player, joins for a reported £4million fee from Birmingham City, while Marvelous Nakamba (pictured below) made his loan move from Aston Villa permanent.
It’s been a modest spend this summer and, with Luton upgrading Kenilworth Road and constructing a new stadium at the same time, it is likely to stay that way.
Edwards deploys a lopsided 5-3-2 formation (the left wing-back tends to push higher than the right) that is reliant on quick counter-attacks and long balls up to the target man Carlton Morris, who scored 20 league goals last season.
Luton are extremely direct in their play, in many respects a throwback to a bygone era in the Premier League. Opta’s calculation of directness and speed shows just how much of an outlier they are.
But that doesn’t mean they’re outdated. Luton press aggressively when the ball is lost and work hard to win it high up the pitch, topping the Championship charts last season for high turnovers (426) and recording the third-lowest passes per defensive action (PPDA) of 11.1, a measure of their pressing intensity.
This furious punt-and-rush mentality is backed up by a very good set-piece record. Luton scored 16 set-piece goals last season, some 26 per cent of their total.
As they look to relieve pressure on their own goal with long-ball counters and hard-won free-kicks, those set-pieces will be even more important at Premier League level.
Reasons to cheer
Plans for a new 23,000-seater stadium, to be opened in 2026, will help secure Luton’s long-term future and therefore the financial windfall of just one season in the Premier League will do wonders for the club.
That’s why the next year is something of a free hit; an adventure that supporters will be able to enjoy whatever happens.
Reasons to fear
The flip side of the new stadium is that resources are limited for now, which makes it extremely difficult for Luton to be competitive.
Luton have decided against signing prized goalkeeper Ethan Horvath following his loan, replacing him with Thomas Kaminski from Blackburn Rovers, and they remain short on quality in virtually all areas.
Opening six matches
Luton face a very challenging start after construction work on Kenilworth Road forced them to postpone their first home match. Brighton & Hove Albion (A) and Chelsea (A) offer a brutal opening, putting pressure on the matches that follow: West Ham United (H), Fulham (A), Wolverhampton Wanderers (H), and Everton (A).
Predicted XI v Brighton
5-3-2: Kaminski; Kabore, Andersen, Bell, Lockyer, Giles; Campbell, Nakamba, Clark; Adebayo, Morris.
Next: Man City