There’s a saying in football “It’s the hope that kills you”. After the euphoria of staying up in the Championship last season, Barnsley supporters were clearly hopeful of a promising season after the turmoil of the previous one. Then 90 minutes into the first league game of a brand new season and the doom and gloom has clouded over those initial sunny skies for Reds fans.
I had planned to talk all things Barnsley with our good friend and lifelong Red John Newsome in a new podcast but he sadly took ill last week and we wish him well in his recovery.
Whilst prior to the opening game at home to Luton, supporters were not getting too carried away as we all knew there were still areas of the squad that needed upgrading but there was an air of optimism given the run Barnsley had been on to retain their Championship status.
Several journalists and commentators had Barnsley finishing this season comfortably in mid table. Not the Top Twenty podcast had the Tykes finishing in 14th, one place behind Blackburn Rovers with them looking forward to Gerhard Strubers pressing style of football again this year.
By 5pm Struber walked down the tunnel about to inform the waiting journalists that he was looking to the transfer window in expectancy more than hope to be able to strengthen the squad and have a more physical approach to his side. Luton Town had exposed the same deficiencies in the Barnsley side that were there for all to see last season. When a big physical side with a game plan roll into town Barnsley not only struggle to match them in the physical battle but lack a Plan B in how to break solid sides down.
Any side that plays football on the floor, playing neat football is usually matched in every department. With the pressing game too Barnsley end up getting something out of the game. Yet just like Cardiff and Birmingham last season as glaring examples, a big side with plenty of Championship know how wrestles a weak Reds side into submission. It isn’t pretty but it works. Struber needs to add that dimension to this current squad if he has plans to sit comfortably in mid table or higher.
We all know Barnsley never replaced Kieffer Moore upfront and have been crying out for a big target man who can hold the ball up, play alongside Cauley Woodrow and knows where the net is. Patrick Schmidt hasn’t shown yet whether he is Moores replacement. Whilst Conor Chaplin chipped in with goals and assists last season, Barnsley need another striker or two if Woodrow is sold before the end of the transfer window.
The stats show Struber is taking Barnsley in the right direction. Had the reds kept a clean sheet against the Hatters it would have been 6 consecutive clean sheets at Oakwell, first time since 1989. Yet for every silver lining there is a cloud. Barnsley have only scored 6 goals in the last 11 home games. For all the work to shore up defensively, play an attractive pressing game all that good work is being undone with a lack of a killer instinct in front of goal.
Whilst no one wants to get too down there are still positives at Oakwell with the goalkeeper position finally being sorted with Jack Walton settling in. Callum Styles signing a new contract and hopefully Isaac Christie-Davies showing everyone that he is a premier league player.
The loss of Jacob Brown isn’t the end of the world. Whilst I liked him for his effort in a red shirt I always felt he wasn’t consistent enough in the final third of the pitch. Too often his shooting or crossing was wayward. When it mattered in those tight final games of last season at Luton, Leeds or at home to Wigan and Millwall when one goal would have made the difference chances fell to him which he fluffed. Struber must bring in a player who will put those chances away. When Woodrow’s goals dried up after lockdown and late chances in those aforementioned games went begging it highlighted the need for a player who can put some of those chances away. Brown consistently didn’t yet he wasn’t the only guilty party.
There is still time in the transfer window for Struber to finalise his plans which are clearly to bring in a physical striker. Saturday wasn’t the end of the world but merely a slap in the face and a reality check from the high of last season. 5pm felt like that sobering up feeling and banging headache you get after the euphoria of a big night out.
Images courtesy of Stoke City FC & weltfussball.at