Barnsley Can Realistically Reach the Championship Play-Offs

Barnsley have emerged as one of the surprise packages in the Championship of late, with their recent form suggesting that pushing for the play-offs may be a realistic target. The Tykes have struggled in recent years to establish themselves in the Championship, but have proved to be far superior in England’s third tier, winning promotion from League One twice in the last five years.

Thus far this campaign, it seems that Barnsley have traded in their usual relegation scrap for the glamour of top half football, something their fans would never have dreamed of when the season resumed in mid-June.

The Championship Play-Offs are a Realistic Target for Barnsley

Barnsley’s Recent Form Suggests Championship Play-off Push Could Be On

The Yorkshire club sit comfortably in ninth this campaign and are just three points off Watford, who occupy the final spot in the Championship play-offs. Barnsley have also recorded six victories in their last nine games, and remarkably each of those wins were by the same 2-1 scoreline.

Their ability to grind out results and grab maximum points this season would have certainly entertained Oakwell on a normal match-day, but with the extended uncertainty on when fans will be able to return once more, The Tykes would have been forgiven for not reaching expected levels. However, they continue to do quite the opposite and have been particularly impactful in the last 15 minutes of games, scoring nine and conceding three in that time period.

Showing Glimpses of Their Survival Form

When the 2019/20 campaign resumed in June, Barnsley sat at the bottom of the Championship table and were seven points off survival. If the odds of going down were not short enough, The Tykes’ last three games would be against teams in the top six.

In extraordinary fashion, Gerhard Struber directed his Barnsley side out of the relegation places, thanks to a 90-minute Patrick Schmidt winner against a Brentford side who could have secured promotion to the Premier League on the day.

Much to the surprise of most, Barnsley struggled in the opening few games of the 2020/21 campaign. After seven games, they found themselves winless and with just four points to their name. Additionally, they found themselves without a manager, with Struber taking the vacant New York Red Bulls job.

In Comes Valerian Ismael

The shock of losing the Struber and subsequent pain was short-lived, as the club appointed Valerian Ismael, a man highly rated by his predecessor.

From the outside looking in, many saw this as a complete stab in the dark. But for Barnsley, their data-driven method of recruitment justified their decision. His former club, LASK Linz, was ranked the second best pressing team in the world, a side to the game he integrated into his acquainted squad seamlessly.

Barnsley have won ten out of the 16 games since the Frenchman’s appointment, with only Brentford, Norwich City and Swansea City accumulating more points in that time.

Plethora of Youthful Talent Coming Through

Barnsley are operating in a sustainable fashion at present and have a number of young players breaking through at the club. In fact, Barnsley possess the youngest squad in the whole division, with the likes of Mads Anderson (23), Callum Brittain (22) and Jack Walton (22) all emerging as regular starters under Ismael, whilst the rise of 20-year-old Callum Styles has certainly impressed the Barnsley faithful.

The recently converted left wing-back has made 19 appearances for The Tykes in the league this season, starting the last 15 games when available. From a statistical point of view, the decision for the 20-year-old to operate as a flying full-back has worked wonders, with the former Bury man scoring three and assisting a further two already this campaign. Ismael has been particularly impressed by Style’s continued rise and how confident the young wing-back has become, but believes he is only scratching the surface of his best self.

Exciting Youth Prospects Balanced With Skilled Experience

It is certainly a positive sign to possess such young, talented individuals, but that needs to be weighted against players with Championship or high-level experience – something that The Tykes are beginning to shape. Alex Mowatt is one player who, despite being 25, is one of the club’s more experienced professionals and a player who has a tremendous ability in possession. The former Leeds United midfielder joined the South Yorkshire club in January 2017 and has since become an integral part to Barnsley’s recent years of success.

The same can be said for forward Cauley Woodrow who, like Mowatt, is still in his mid-20’s, but possesses a wealth of experience in comparison to his teammates. The former Fulham man has netted ten times in all competitions this season and has assisted a further five, and he is well on his way to surpass last season’s total of 15.


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