Luton continue a testing period as they face Arsenal tomorrow evening. With December games coming thick and fast, the Hatters have had to pick themselves up and dust themselves down after away defeat at Brentford on Saturday - especially in a figurative and literal sense as Town's ranks have been injury-hit.
Rob Edwards knew the reality of the task at hand when quizzed about a number of topics ahead of Tuesday night's welcoming of the Gunners. Team news was the first subject, as Tom Lockyer's lower back injury was an addition to an ever-fluctuating hit-list.
“We’re still going to give him as much time as possible. His back’s still sore. He wasn’t out on the grass today, but we’re going to give him as much time as we can because he’s an important player for us. We’ll see where we’re at tomorrow.”
“(After his initial knee in the back) He was still feeling it. If you watch the game, he got another couple of whacks on it as well later on and right towards the end he had to back pedal quite quickly and really felt it defending the box. It’s right in that sore area at the bottom of the back, we’ve all had it at some point, at some stage where it’s very, very tender.”
Such is the manager in dire straits, that when injections were mentioned as a potential short term cure to play through the pain, Rob Edwards continued:
“Everything’s on the table at the moment. Locks is willing to go through a lot of pain as well, but at the same time we need to have everyone right at it tomorrow. We don’t want to be carrying anyone. We don’t want to be risking anyone going into a really busy period. So we’ve got to make a really sensible decision.”
Another unfortunate knock for the group was for that of Teden Mengi. His diagnosis was a little less strenuous.
“Teden Mengi’s obviously a slight doubt as well, he came off in the game on Saturday so it’s a little bit more positive and hopeful on him. He's still in contention. He was out there on the grass today, which is a real positive for us. Hopefully there’ll be no reaction.”
"Sambi’s not eligible obviously against his parent club but he’s fit and available now, so hopefully we can get him involved on Sunday. Alfie’s been progressing really well, so we’re hoping to have him as part of the group as well. For Marv, it’s probably just that little bit too soon at the moment, although he’s another one doing well. Hopefully we’ll have him available for the weekend.”
Improvement must come in possession
While Brentford were simply more effective going forward than Luton, and were deserving of Saturday afternoon's 3-1 score line - the Hatters admittedly didn't help themselves. Lacklustre on the ball and conceding poor goals, Edwards wants to rectify these points regardless of the level of the opponent in the next outing.
“We know we need to be better with the ball. It’s an area we certainly need to improve in. Again, there’ll be similarities tomorrow to the Liverpool game. We had a real potency with the ball and we kept it really well in transition. We dipped below our levels, we had a bad day at the office, simple as that. We’re human, it can happen. I can count on one hand - less than that how many times we’ve dipped over the year that we’ve been here. The lads have been incredible, really consistent and it just happened to be on Saturday and Brentford are a really good team. They took advantage of that, we know we’ve got to improve against Arsenal, a team that’s top of the league.
"We’re also going to try and continue to get better (in general). We’ve got one or two players out missing. Sambi Lokonga for instance, he was brought in to help us improve with the ball and give us more control. Ross (Barkley) has been able to do that coming in. We’ve got one or two out - Clicker (Jordan Clark) is still getting used to it, he’s been out for a long, long time. We’re getting better all the time. Hopefully we’ll continue to evolve but for sure, we’ll have to be better than we were on the weekend.”
In regards to the quality of the goals that came against his side, Edwards said:
“We’re well aware. When you look back at the goals, there were a lot of ricochets and kind bounces that fell to them like we talked about after the game, but of course we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to try and stop the ball coming into those areas first and foremost. Mark, track, block - get in the way. Stand up. All of those things. But yeah, these are a team that are going to ask so many questions. You know, even more questions than what we got asked on Saturday. So we know we’re going to have to be better at defending the box.”
Sights fixed on the Gunners
When asked his thoughts on Mikel Arteta's Arsenal, Rob Edwards was as complimentary as they come. However, with the game due to take place at a typically-noisy Kenilworth Road, it'll be intriguing to see yet another top six side contend with the tight pitch and Bedfordshire decibels.
“(Mikel Arteta's) an incredible manager, isn’t he? It’s good that the football club have clearly seen something, they want to grow with him, they want to build the whole football club with him there. And yeah, they’ve had one or two tough moments in the past but there’s been clear improvement in consistency there and he’s built an incredibly strong team that looks like they’re going to challenge for bigger trophies. It’s just approaching four years that he’s been at the club now, everyone wants everything so quickly in football. I think that’s a quick turnaround when you think about the job he’s had to do. So, he’s really impressive, again we’re sort of privileged to go against a top coach like him.”
“It is different (playing at home). It is a little bit tighter, it’s quite intimidating. We’re certainly going to need our fans to be at their best and hopefully we can give them something to cheer about as well. It is unique, the ground gives something different.
"I think it is a bit of a leveller - we’ve had a lot of tight games so far this season, hopefully this can be another one. But again, we’re coming up against one of the best teams in the world really, at the moment. Just because we’re at home, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park but we’ve got to make sure we’re right at it.”
“(Arsenal have) brought in more top, top players. They’re very strong in all aspects. They can control the game, they give very little chances away. The set-pieces are strong, they’re quick, they’re big and technically good. (Laughs) They’re well coached, yeah. It’s a hard game but we all know that. But like every team, they’re going to give some spaces away, they’re going to give something away - they have to. Every team does and we’ll look to try and exploit it in the areas we can. We have a clear plan, and we’ll try and carry it out as best as possible.”