Now plying their trade back in English football’s second tier, Luton Town will be seeking to solidify their place in the Championship and aim to secure safety from the threat of relegation at the earliest opportunity.
Last season, the Hatters ran secured the League One title with their dynamic, attacking brand of football which yielded an impressive haul of 90 goals over the course of the season. However, as followers of the Championship will know, this league is a whole different standard of quality in comparison to the third tier.
Despite this, manager Graeme Jones has stuck with the 4-1-2-1-2 formation which served Luton so brilliantly for much of last season, and it is one of the club’s summer transfers who is looking to cement a place in this system, in the form of 28-year-old forward player, Callum McManaman that is the focus of this article.
McManaman, a product of Everton’s academy, made his name operating predominantly as a winger for much of his career, enjoying his most productive spell at Wigan Athletic, in which he played 133 games for the Latics. According to WhoScored.com, McManaman’s best strengths are his abilities to hold onto the ball, dribble and cross the ball.
It is clear that Jones has recognized these capabilities and took the interesting decision to start McManaman as an out and out striker alongside James Collins, as was seen in Luton’s first game of the season against Middlesbrough.
It was in this particular fixture that McManaman showcased the reason for this positional change, as he regularly drifted out wide to the right-hand side where he could link up with the supporting full-back Martin Cranie and in turn look to pull the Boro defence out of their positions.
This tactic allowed Luton to create more opportunities to cross the ball into Collins, as well as providing space for the midfield four of Lee, Shinnie, Tunnicliffe and the deeper-lying Ruddock to create opportunities through the middle of the pitch, which is another area that Luton are known for being strong in.
In addition to his contribution in open play, McManaman also possesses strong set-piece taking abilities, which is something which will prove useful for Luton this season, given that they possess something of a goalscoring centre half in the form of Matty Pearson, who found the net a very impressive 6 times last season and the more recognisable aerial presence of James Collins when attacking from dead-ball situations.
Taking advantage of the situations McManaman creates for his teammates could be the key to Luton surviving their first season back in the Championship, particularly from set-piece situations, which in many games against stronger opposition may be their best chance of creating scoring opportunities.