How Elijah Adebayo Became the Cornerstone of Luton’s Attack

Luton Town get the basics right and play to their strengths. There’s beauty in the simplicity, and in a team stacked full of redemption arcs and rags-to-riches stories, there’s little room for egos. It makes Luton’s one of the most compelling narratives in the Premier League, and one man with his head in the clouds but his feet firmly on the ground is 6’4′ striker Elijah Adebayo. 


With four goals in his last three games, the towering centre-forward is making a name for himself against some of the world’s best defenders. It feels a long way from his release by Fulham aged 21, but it’s little more than he deserves. Five years on, Adebayo has climbed through the Football League, using his languid physicality to disorientate defenders. 


Adebayo excels at using separation to get a run on his marker and attack crosses, with Luton’s play centring around his aerial presence. Only Everton have produced more crosses than Luton this season, whilst the Hatters rank joint-first with Arsenal for headed goals. Four of Adebayo’s nine goals this season have come from headers, and he has been able to get the better of Declan Rice and Ruben Dias through sheer presence alone. 


Luton Town’s Miraculous Rise to Premier League Stardom


Luton know they can hang the ball up to Adebayo, and he will attack it with intent. It’s not a groundbreaking tactic, but Adebayo uses his body and movement to make defending against him a very awkward proposition. Few defenders are able to get a jump on him because he’s already ahead of them by the time the ball is crossed. 


Adebayo has struck up a good relationship with the revitalised Ross Barkley, with the pair instinctively linking up for goals against Brighton and Newcastle over the course of a week. The following match would see Adebayo win a penalty, promptly converted by Carlton Morris, but Vinicius Souza would double Sheffield United’s lead shortly after to secure a 3-1 win at Kenilworth Road.



Barkley’s aggression in the press and ability to drive with the ball allows Adebayo to pull off into the right-hand channel and create an option. Barkley’s weight of pass then puts the ball into the path of the onrushing Adebayo to sweep home. There’s a predictability to Adebayo’s movement, whether it’s pulling wide to offer a pass to Barkley or attacking the back post from a cross, that should make it easy to defend, but his timing and technique are so precise that the 26-year-old will always have the advantage. 


After playing the full 90 in their loss to Sheffield United, Adebayo missed their next two defeats to Manchester United and Liverpool due to a hamstring injury, with Cauley Woodrow filling in at the center forward position. And yet, despite their last three defeats, the Hatters still possess the confidence that they can play anyone and get a result. It’s an attitude that’s spearheaded by players like Adebayo and Barkley, who have nothing to lose and everything to prove. 


By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alex Livesey / Getty Images