Nathan Jones predominantly uses a back three formation. The 1-3-5-2 or 1-5-3-2 formation in particular is often used, although it should be noted that the shape of the team on the pitch differs considerably in the phases with and without the ball. Therefore in the deep defensive phase Luton looks like a 1-5-3-2, in the high counterpressing 1-3-2-1-4, immediately after recovering the ball 1-3-4-1-2 and in the final phase of the action even 1-3-2-5. Jones prefers this structure because of its excellent defensive tightness, but he happens to change the settings due to the requirements of a particular match and go out for example in a 1-4-2-3-1 or 1-4-3-3 system.
Luton are a team that play high pressing and try to get the ball back as high as possible. They are very quick and intense in pressing jumps just after losing possession with Jones combining two systems: man-to-man marking and zone pressing. This mixed zonal-marking defense allows Luton to do some very intense high pressing, but also provides security as the single pivot sets up deeper with the task of taking care of problems when the pressing line is broken. In counter-pressing The Hatters have three midfielders: two playing in a line (Campbell, Lansbury) and one positioned deeper (Mpanzu) who protects the defensive line from high balls and gets to any players who enter his zone.
In this phase the wing-backs move up to cover their rivals and one of the central midfielders moves higher to press the opponent’s outermost defender.
Another key element of Jones’ tactics is to catch opponents into pressing traps in the center of the pitch. These traps occur when the team plays high pressing, but also when they are in the middle block. They position themselves wider on the pitch and force the opponent to play inside and then try to attack them.
In attack Luton is a team that plays very direct. They don’t usually build their actions from the back, but choose long passes towards the target forward (Adebayo). In doing so they can be very effective at collecting second balls, as the offensive partners form an excellent support structure around the target man. This allows The Hatters to get the ball into the offensive third quickly and then sustain an attack where they can look for goal scoring opportunities.
At times when Luton launch a positional attack and opt for possession rather than long passes, the team’s tactics generally involve moving down the right wing and creating wide overloads on that side (Burke, Bree, Campbell). If possession is lost the overloading of this zone means that they have a number of players in close distance to each other, allowing both their own counter-attack and the prevention of rivals’ counter-attacks.