Luton could be without 13 players at Arsenal as Edwards faces his biggest challenge yet

Town boss unsure if Doughty, Chong and Burke will feature
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Luton boss Rob Edwards is facing his biggest challenge ever as a manager as he takes his threadbare squad to face title-chasing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow evening.

The Hatters could be without as many as 13 first teamers for the match after suffering a further three injuries during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, Reece Burke, Tahith Chong and Alfie Doughty all going off. Edwards wasn’t sure if any of them will be back in time to face the Gunners, leaving Town with more than an entire starting XI out, Elijah Adebayo, Marvelous Nakamba, Gabe Osho, Sambi Lokonga, Mads Andersen, Amari’i Bell, Jacob Brown, Tom Lockyer, Chiedozie and Dan Potts all absent.

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With Luton entertaining AFC Bournemouth on Saturday, Edwards wasn’t sure if they will be ready to face the Cherries either, saying: "I don’t know, we haven’t trained yet, we’ll see how they are. We’re training this afternoon to give them as much time as possible, so a couple of them are very doubtful, maybe we’ll get one, maybe we’ll get two.

Luton boss Rob Edwards gives out some orders during the 2-1 defeat at Spurs on Saturday - pic: Liam SmithLuton boss Rob Edwards gives out some orders during the 2-1 defeat at Spurs on Saturday - pic: Liam Smith
Luton boss Rob Edwards gives out some orders during the 2-1 defeat at Spurs on Saturday - pic: Liam Smith

“I’m not going to give you that information right now (who’s closest), they’re not fifty-fifty, some are more than that, some are fifty-fifty. Everyone else is out, so there could be 11, 12, 13 players out. We’ll try and put our best team out and be the best version of us, but it’s difficult at the moment. It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever had, aside from a real serious incident we had with our captain (Tom Lockyer’s cardiac arrest), it is the most difficult, challenging period I’ve ever faced.

"I’ve never known anything like it and we are coming up against the best teams in the world in this period as well. So if I’m speaking honestly, to be competing the way we did, especially on Saturday against another top team, with the challenge that we’re facing, we’re doing pretty well. That being said, we all want to get points and we need to get points, so we’ll try, but it’s a really big challenge and it’s not just tomorrow, Saturday as well as Bournemouth are very good.

"To be as depleted as we are, the lads are giving everything. They’ve been absolutely brilliant, but it’s hard to be your best when you’ve got so many key players missing. We’ll see if we can turn them around for Saturday, but if they’re not ready for Wednesday then there’s a big doubt for Saturday as well, it’s just where we’re at.”

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Arsenal saw an eight game top flight winning streak, in which they scored 33 goals, conceding a mere four, ended by a goalless draw at fellow title-chasers Manchester City on Sunday. Luton had managed to push the Gunners all the way in a 4-3 defeat at Kenilworth Road in December, but on whether they can repeat that kind of performance with so many absentees, Edwards continued: “Their defence is pretty stubborn, they don’t give much away.

"It was a bit of a unique game which sometimes it can be at Kenilworth Road. All our players are doing an amazing job, so if we’re able to go and score three at the Emirates then we’re doing pretty well! We’ll try and put our best team out, and be the best version of us, but it’s difficult at the moment. The last one was a real exciting game, we’re going to be lower this time, we know that.

"They’re so good with the ball they’re going to force us lower, and we can do a lot of work on that, and we’ll see. They’re in great form especially since the break, around January time. They’ve come back and been incredible. I know they didn’t score at the weekend, but they’ve been scoring loads of goals and are very, very difficult to break down, Mikel (Arteta) and his players are doing an amazing job.”

Asked whether potentially having half of his first squad unavailable in north London will change how Luton approach the contest, Edwards added: "It makes you different anyway. On Saturday we probably had around 30 percent of the ball against Tottenham. I looked at us early January, Feb and thought I really like what I’m seeing here at the moment.

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"As more or more numbers have gone, we’ve tried, the messages have been the same, to play our way, but it’s difficult then to be at the same levels at times. No disrespect to anyone else as they’ve been amazing but if you don’t have a certain number of defensive players, it’s square pegs in round holes. It’s hard to be as fluid as we have been so that’s a challenge, but we’ll still try and be us, still try and do what we can do.

"We’ll try and be aggressive when we can, try and press when we can. We’re going to have to defend really well, be good in transition moments, that’s obvious. They look strong in every single department at the moment, they’re going to challenge for the biggest prizes in the world at the moment, so pretty formidable.”

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