Written by Ian Hope
As the first international break is upon us, we assess Barnsley`s performances and results now they are six games into the new Championship season.
After a busy recruitment process during the off season with 12 new players signing and 4 older established players leaving, we report on how things have gone for Barnsley in the Championship.
It has been well documented that the club have adopted a policy of buying young up and coming players with a view to developing them and if necessary, selling them on for bigger fees with the profit being re-invested into the team. Players have been identified who are young, quick and can adapt to the managers style of pressing football. The club announced that they refuse to use the loan market and developing other clubs players therefore assisting the parent club in the process. Barnsley have also tied new players and existing staff on lengthy contracts, hopefully keeping those players at the club for the foreseeable future. It is worth noting that the club can command a higher transfer fee for any player due to them being contracted for such a long time. Less likely that a player would go for free after winding down their contract.
However, with all this youth comes the problem of a lack of experience. With Adam Davies and Kieffer Moore gone, players who have played at this level the side will have to learn and adapt quickly to life in a new division. Stendel recently said at the fans Q&A that individual errors are punished with a goal in the Championship whereas you could get away with errors more in League One.
The club did explain that they have looked at experienced players at the Championship level but those players command such high wages as well as huge agents fees which are well outside the clubs budget. The budget being in the lower third of the division.
Whilst supporters love a new signing, to sign 12 in one transfer window brings problems. Whatever starting 11 players Daniel Stendel opts for, these players will take time to gel and forge partnerships. The defence is unrecognisable from last season and those players will take time to get to know one and other. Some of the best defences in football took time to settle and start performing.
Young players bring enthusiasm, fearlessness and a vibrancy but their confidence can soon take a hit after criticism or a poor performance. One game a young player can receive a standing ovation, the next be anonymous and then vilified on social media by fans.
So what would Stendel`s school report show after six Championship games played?
Fulham blown away
On the opening day of the season, Barnsley blew promotion favourites Fulham away especially with a first half performance that had everyone drooling. Time and again, Fulham were robbed of the ball and on the back foot as the Tykes should have gone in at half time three goals up. The way the side dug in during the second half when the Cottagers got a strangle hold on midfield and threw caution to the wind to get an equaliser, was impressive.
Mads Andersen was voted man of the match with his commanding performance in defence, but any number of players in red could have won that accolade.
The euphoria of not only the result but the manner of the performance lasted all week. Supporters believed that the reds would break their Hillsborough hoodoo the following week. Talk of wingers Mallik Wilks and Luke Thomas causing havoc and the gegenpressing of Barnsley would cause the Owls all sorts of problems.
Sadly all that anticipation and hope was crushed within two minutes when Wednesday scored and the Tykes never got their game going. Overrun and well beaten, it was back to reality for supporters.
Although the result was nothing new for the reds at Hillsborough having such a torrid history at the home of Sheffield Wednesday, it was the manner of the performance that troubled many. Talk of men v boys, a lack of experience, individual errors all over the pitch troubled many. Only two games into the season and Barnsley fans had experienced the highs and lows of football already. From the heady heights of Fulham, knocked back down to earth at Hillsborough. Still, supporters would have taken three points from a tough opening two games and considered that a decent start to the season.
Late penalty woes against Charlton
What was possibly seen as a “must win” game so soon in the season as it was against a fellow promotion side in Charlton, the reds came up against Lee Bowyer`s side who were full of confidence after back to back wins to start the Londoners season off on a high.
Despite controlling large parts of the game, scoring some excellent goals Barnsley learned the hard way about game management and seeing games out. A late penalty conceded changed the mood with the reds realising they must see games out better even if the performance overall was promising.
Lack of penetration at Birmingham
In truth two poor sides were on show at St Andrews in this game which had 0-0 written all over it. With the hosts aiming long for striker Lukas Jutkiewicz hoping to bully the reds and Thiam getting little or no service up front the game seemed to be heading for a drab draw. Once again Barnsley`s midfield failed to dominate and the reds succumbed to a 2-0 defeat. The lack of creativity and penetration was for all to see with Barnsley only registering one shot on target all game.
Shambolic first half against the Hatters
We all agree that the first half against Luton at Oakwell was a disaster. The performance was one of the poorest supporters have seen in a very long time. Take nothing away from a very good Luton side, for 45 minutes it was men versus boys out there.
Luton benefited from keeping the nucleus of the side that won them promotion last season as opposed to the reds who were still trying to get to know one another. Then the Hatters had so many ex-Barnsley players in their squad who were clearly super motivated to perform back at Oakwell.
What was glaringly obvious was a lack of striking options with Woodrow sidelined and Patrick Schmidt not fully match sharp. Thiam playing up front as a lone striker failed to work like it failed at Birmingham in the previous game.
In defence, Sibbick looks lost playing at full back and was given a torrid time by Luton`s LuaLua. In the second half, Sibbick moved centrally and looked more assured. So maybe it was too many square pegs and round holes in respect of the starting eleven?
The players did show more passion in the second half and with some better finishing could have made the game more interesting. At is was the great home run finally and spectacularly came to an end against Luton.
Tykes draw another away day blank
If the squad looked bare at home to Luton then the injuries did start to bite when the reds went to Wigan. With Radlinger, Mowatt and Diaby out Stendel had to shuffle the pack once again. Sibbick played a more defensive midfielder role, Cavare came into the side and did well.
The positives would be keeping a clean sheet but with no goals now in three away games this season, Stendel has to find a way to get the reds firing on their travels.
Hopefully the international break comes at a good time to take stock of things. For players to recover from injury with the exception of Radlinger who is out until Christmas and for the new players to get used to each other and used to Stendel`s system.
Whilst results and performances have fluctuated since the Fulham game, it was probably to be expected given so many new faces and a lack of experience in the Championship.
However, this young side and Stendel himself need the support of everyone to get through what will be a difficult season. Maybe expectations went through the roof after such a successful season last year and beating Fulham. Now it is time to reassess those expectations and work towards staying in this division.
Barnsley face tough fixtures against Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Preston, Brentford, Derby, Swansea and West Brom. On current form you would not expect too many points from those games. Yet if Stendel can get the side playing with that high intensity and youthful exuberance again then maybe the reds will shock a few of those established Championship sides.