'The new boss has got them playing forward a lot quicker to the front three' - what Sheffield Wednesday can expect from Barnsley
Much has been written and spoken about Tony Pulis’ winless start to his tenure as Sheffield Wednesday manager.
The midweek defeat at Hudderfield Town made it six games without a win since the former Stoke City boss took charge of the Owls following Garry Monk’s sacking in mid-November.
It means Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley at Hillsborough is huge – not only for Pulis to get that monkey off his back, but because his side desperately need three points to close the gap between themselves and the teams above the relegation zone.
But what about the team they will be coming up against at S6?
We’ve asked Doug O’Kane, from the Barnsley Chronicle, to give us the lowdown on the Reds.
What was the reaction among the Barnsley fanbase when Valérien Ismaël was appointed?
I don’t think many of them knew much about him, other than that he had a brief spell as a player with Crystal Palace in 1998.
Most were willing to give him a chance and the recruitment department have an excellent record recently of appointing head coaches as Daniel Stendel secured promotion last year then Gerhard Struber kept them up against all the odds.
Are Reds fans happy with the start to the season?
Barnsley did not win any of the first seven league games which was their longest wait for victory at the start of a season for a century.
But, since winning six of Ismael’s first ten matches, they are ten points clear of the bottom three and eight away from the top six which is a huge improvement on last season when they survived in the final seconds.
I would say the vast majority are pleased with the way things are going.
Who have been the stand-out performers for Barnsley?
The wing-backs.Callum Styles, a 20-year-old central midfielder playing at left wing-back, has made more tackles per game than anyone in the Championship and he has also scored in Barnsley’s last three wins.
He’s one of the most exciting talents the Reds have had for years and looks destined for the top level.
On the right, Callum Brittain has made an excellent impact since signing from MK Dons in October – he adds pace and good delivery.
Who are the main threats?
It’s hard to look beyond striker Cauley Woodrow, who has seven goals this season and 41 in 94 games for the club in total.
Five of his six goals in the league this season have been penalties but he is a threat in open play and has three assists.
What style of football (or system) should Wednesday expect to come up against?
Barnsley have a counter-attacking, high-pressing style. Ismael has changed to a 3-4-3 after Gerhard Struber used 3-4-1-2.
The new boss has also got them playing forward a lot quicker to the front three. As the possession stats have gone down, the number of goals, wins and points has risen.
What is Barnsley's target for this season/where do you think they will finish?
The staff and players have been coy about their targets, but it is safe to assume they want at least a top half finish.
That is ambitious but definitely achievable as long as they stay consistent during this gruelling schedule then, in January, they keep their star players and strengthen in key areas.