Tag Archives: Barnsley

Analysis of the Championship Run-in

Championship fans up and down the country were today (June 8) given a huge boost of excitement with the EFL announcing the restart schedule released – along with confirmed TV selections.

The journey will continue for Sky Bet Championship clubs with the action kicking off again on Saturday 20 June. They couldn’t have gone for a juicier opening fixture with promotion contenders Fulham & Brentford clashing in front of the Sky cameras for a West London derby.

So with just nine games remaining, who is in the running for promotion and relegation? Let’s break it down and give a final prediction of what could go down starting with the relegation candidates.

We all know what gruelling and outright horrible season the Championship can be for clubs. It is 46 games of tough, physical games of football and we would usually be talking of these remaining nine games as the last hurdle, but truthfully, with the break, everyone has now had, anything could happen. Even more, than it usually does. Seriously, the Championship has become even more unpredictable – let the party begin.

Last term, 44 points renewed Millwall’s Championship status and the year before that, 43 points kept Bolton up. Yet with 27 points still up for grabs, Hull City sit one place out the drop zone on 41 points which makes you realise we could be in for a much higher points total to guarantee safety.

So who are all the teams in the relegation run-in? I suppose this is almost impossible to pinpoint with the dramatic changes this league can produce but all the way up to seventeenth spot we have Stoke City who are just three points adrift. Below them are Huddersfield, Middlesbrough Wigan and Hull. The drop zone meanwhile contains Charlton, Luton, and Barnsley.

Given the number of ridiculous results that the Championship can produce I almost feel it a pointless exercise to start analysing the run-ins that the teams have but some crucial relegation clashes are coming up – one of them being Hull vs Middlesbrough.

The Yorkshire derby (I’m sorry) has been selected for Sky coverage on Thursday 2 July and could play a pivotal part. The Tigers made a terrible gamble in January by selling their dynamic duo of Jared Bowen and Kamil Grosicki to West Ham and West Brom respectively and it’s fair to say it couldn’t have gone worse for them.

At one stage it looked like Hull might be in for a fairly stable season but since Christmas, they have picked up just eleven points from a possible forty-two, including heavy defeats in the last two outings to Leeds and Stoke.

Elsewhere, the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Wigan Athletic who were in the form of their lives and picked up huge wins over the current top two, Leeds and West Brom. It’s a huge fight meanwhile for Barnsley, who, despite some half-decent form themselves, are still bottom of the pile and seven points adrift. Gerhard Struber has not done a bad job with the Yorkshire club but the sheer awfulness of their start to the season before he took charge in November means that it still hasn’t been enough.

Charlton Athletic have been hit with a huge blow, which has been a big talking point ahead of the restart with several players including top scorer Lyle Taylor, refusing to continue. Taylor (30) is out of contract and states his physical health as reasons for not agreeing to a temporary extension as he doesn’t want an injury to prevent him from a move next season.

Even with Taylor’s goals, Charlton are two points deep in the relegation zone and without them, you do wonder where the results are going to come from. Below the Addicks, we have Luton Town who for most of the season have just looked a little bit out of their depth. It would be a shame for Luton to go down as their epic rise, fall and rise again has been a great story. Do they, however, have enough to stay up?

Huddersfield and Stoke may be living life dangerously sitting just three points clear, but the misfortunes of Charlton and Hull I think will keep them safe enough and out of the equation. Huddersfield will, however, have crucial games against Wigan and Luton, meanwhile Stoke will have to fight off tough opposition with three of the top six still to play.

Final Prediction
21: Charlton Athletic (Survived)
22: Hull City (Relegated)
23: Barnsley (Relegated)
24: Luton Town (Relegated)

So on we go to the epic prize that is the Premier League. Once again this is going to be a tough one to predict and it really wouldn’t shock me if a team I mention in this somehow ends up in a relegation scrap. This division is mental, it really is.

With just six points separating sixth and thirteenth – don’t shoot me if I end up getting this horrifically wrong.

I reiterate that form could completely go out the window with the big break that we have had and the run-ins could make no difference whatsoever but nonetheless, we’ll start with the current top two.

Leeds and West Brom have looked the best bets for promotion for a lot of this season and six points currently separates West Brom from Fulham in third with Leeds one point ahead of Albion in first. Both have had their bad spells this season and at one point it seriously looked like both Fulham and Brentford could take up the top two spots.

Before the pandemic, however, Leeds were in tantalising form winning their last five games and conceding no goals in the process. For West Brom, it was a little more up and down drawing away to Swansea and losing at home to Wigan but the Baggies did register big wins over Preston and Bristol City before that.

With Brentford ten points behind West Brom, we have to suggest at this stage that Fulham are the main contenders to challenge the top two.

However, a reminder that Fulham do host Brentford in the first game back and an away win for the Bees could give them a very good argument that they are still in the mix. Thomas Frank’s side will then have to face West Brom immediately afterwards at home so those two games perhaps could give us a good idea?

In that same game week, Leeds will host Fulham in what could also prove to be huge. My word I have missed this barnstormer of a league!

We must also not forget Nottingham Forest who sit level with Brentford in fifth, however, since their big home win over Leeds back in February, the form for Sabri Lamouchi’s men has been very up and down. They were shocked at home to Charlton and since been well beaten in their last game at the hands of Millwall. Forest have been crying out for Premier League football even longer than Leeds but still strike me as a team that is developing under Lamouchi.

There is no doubt that Lamouchi has transformed Forest into a much better side than we have seen over the years and for that reason, in my opinion, it puts him in the running for manager of the year. Should they, however, fall short this season they’d have to be big favourites next year.

Four points behind Forest in sixth we have Preston where thankfully we can now just be talking about who is going to take that spot come July. Not that I should completely disregard Preston ploughing through everyone in nine games and go up as champions but let’s just pretend that isn’t possible. Alex Neil is another manager who has done a tremendous job this season, turning Preston from a mid-table team to a side that is mounting a promotion challenge.

They do, however, face stiff competition from Bristol City, who are just a point behind The Lilywhites, while Millwall and Cardiff are just two points adrift. Oh, but then we have Blackburn, Swansea and Derby who are also very much in contention…I give in, please no one shoot me for this prediction.

To make matters more difficult these are all teams who’s form has been very inconsistent, I mean that’s probably why they are where they are. I do make a strong case for Gary Rowett’s Millwall though, who, since Rowett’s appointment I’ve identified as dark horses for promotion.

Rowett has had a lot of talk about him since his shock departure from Birmingham as to how good a coach he is and it did not go well for him at Stoke. At the time it looked a risky decision to take the managerial role at The Den, given that the previous season Millwall had very narrowly escaped relegation and were sat in seventeenth spot at the time of his appointment.

The Lions though have lost just five league games in his 23 game tenure and with just two points separating them and Preston they do look a good bet. Bristol City meanwhile were in very bad form before lockdown and despite that potentially making no difference anymore, they aren’t a team that has struck me as one that would maintain a spot in the playoffs. I would also say similarly with Guy Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers, who have been in and around the mix for a while now and for a long time topped the form table, but ultimately I see them coming short.

Swansea and Derby are interesting ones because the Swans were at the top end of the table for a while before Christmas but a bad run of form led to their slip down the table. They are a young footballing side that given time under Steve Cooper, they could be well in the mix next season.

Derby, on the other hand, have had a very eventful season.  The signing of Wayne Rooney in January to the sacking of captain Richard Keogh. Focusing on the football, they’re a team that has tried to play out from the back under Phillip Cocu but just haven’t done it that well. Their fortunes have however recently changed and the results have started to come, which has led to them being back in the mix but I think it will be too little too late for them.

Final Prediction
1: Leeds (Promoted)
2: West Brom (Promoted)
3: Fulham
4: Brentford (Promoted via Playoffs)
5: Nottingham Forest
6: Millwall

Barnsley 0-2 Leeds United: Whites fitness told as they win Yorkshire Derby

LEEDS United beat Barnsley 2-0 at Oakwell on Sunday afternoon in a pulsating Yorkshire Derby.

Second half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Mateusz Klich secured all three points for Marcelo Bielsa’s troops as they marched back to the top of the table.

Barnsley played well in parts

For biggest parts of the first period of this Yorkshire Derby, Barnsley, who were the home side, showed some good movement as they tried to break the deadlock, trying to stop their West Yorkshire rivals winning consecutive games against the Tykes.

Former Whites player Mallik Wilks looked to cause a few problems for the Leeds defence. However, selfishly going for goals over assists he squandered a good opportunity, and being at a tight angle failed to beat ex Real Madrid keeper Kiko Casilla in goal.

In the second half Casilla had to produce a good stop to deny a Tykes chance on the goal-line, but what the Whites shot stopper  didn’t know that Aapo Halme a fellow ex Leeds player had blocked an header on the line and in doing so was in an offside position.

Substitutions changed the game for Leeds

The fitness levels for Leeds in the last minutes helped them claim the deserved victory, extra energy coming from substitutions definitely helped.

Bringing Helder Costa on at the break for Jack Harrison and Eddie Nketiah for Patrick Bamford with twenty minutes remaining changed the complexion of the game in the favour of Bielsa’s troops.

The fresh legs and ideas that both Costa and Nketiah helped the Whites get over the line in a game which looked to be heading for a goalless draw.

First real involvement for Costa forced Dimitri Cavare into fouling the on-loan Wolverhampton Wanderers winger, from the free-kick which followed, Leeds scored.

Kalvin Phillips, who recently signed a new five-year deal at Leeds, whipped in the free-kick to the back post, skipper Liam Cooper missed it but Nketiah followed in around the back to volley home at the back post.

Nketiah was involved in the second goal aswell after winning a penalty following a foul by Halme on the on-loan Arsenal man.

Polish international Klich calmly slotted the penalty home, giving the travelling fans more reasons to celebrate as they bounced back from a 1-0 defeat last time out against Swansea.

Leeds caused commotion in the stands

Following the opening goal of the game by Nketiah, Leeds fans began to celebrate the goal – out of nowhere a steward raced towards the supporters celebrating their teams opening goal.

The steward seemingly unfairly picked out a certain individual and pushed him down to the ground, before grabbing him around the throat before escorting him away from the ground which lead to the fan getting arrested.

Perfect Response From Leeds

Overall it was a perfect response from the Whites. Losing before the international break, and then returning to winning ways and also returning at the summit at the top of the Championship table.

The next game for Leeds is a re-run of the play-off semi-final from last season, as Derby County arrive at Elland Road on Saturday 21 September – kick-off 12.30pm, you can watch that game live on Sky Sports.

The Championship: In a league of it’s own?

The gulf between the Premier League and the rest of the EFL has been well documented, and in recent seasons it has only continued to grow. However, it seems as though the jump from League 1 to the Championship is almost in the same ballpark now. I’m going to take a look at the finances and see how the newly promoted League 1 clubs (Luton, Barnsley and Charlton) could fair in the battleground that is the English Championship.

Let’s take wages as an example. The average basic wage in the Championship is around £330,000 a year, working out at about £6,300 a week. While this is nowhere near the dizzying heights of Premier League wages, it makes the £70,000 a year average for League 1 look rather small. That works out at £1,346 a week: a significant gulf is starting to emerge. The same can be said for agents’ fees. Last season, League 1 clubs paid a total of £2,611,647 to agents in a bid to sign players. That sounds like a lot money doesn’t it? So, what if I told you Aston Villa alone spent £5,510,180. That’s more than double the League 1 figure. So how can clubs be expected to thrive in the Championship on a League 1 Budget? I’m going to have a look at some past examples to see how clubs have fared making that jump.

In 2015-16, Wigan Athletic won League 1 to secure promotion to the Championship. By the end of the next season, they had regained their League 1 status, finishing 9 points adrift of safety. Then the next season, they were back up again. What does this yoyo tell us about the difficulty clubs have in maintaining themselves at Championship level?

It is obviously not impossible though. Some teams promoted from League 1 in recent memory include Wolves (Premier League), Bournemouth (Premier League), Huddersfield (Championship) and Brighton (Premier League). So it can be done. The newly promoted teams will face a level of competition and finances that they are not used to, so how will they get on?

Luton Town

Luton’s story has been quite remarkable. From the infamous -30 points season of 08/09, to near bankruptcy and then to 3 promotions in 6 years (going up from League 2 and League 1 in successive campaigns). They came into League 1 with a decent budget, but there were limited expectations. The budget and spending placed them around the playoffs, so to go on and win the league was a massive achievement. They are a prime example of how important good ownership is to a football club, and so my predicted finish for The Hatters in the Championship is 15th.

Barnsley

Barnsley have Championship experience as recently as 2017-18, being relegated after some ownership problems led to the selling of 80% of the club and the sacking of Assistant Manager Tommy Wright. New ownership gave the club momentum, as did the appointing of manager Daniel Stendel. Given the calibre of player that Barnsley have (some were retained from the Championship), my prediction for the Tykes is 13th.

Charlton

Charlton’s promotion was thanks to a unified group of players and management, and in spite of their owners. Protests continue against the owners off the pitch, but on it they were one of the best footballing sides in the league. The troubles with the owners may well make it difficult to make quality signings and investments, so a lot of trust will have to be put in the players that got them into the Championships to keep them there. My predicted finish for the Addicks is 18th.

Portsmouth : Can they still go up?

Portsmouth, one of the sleeping giants of League One it could be said, and certainly a club with a distinct history, now stand on the brink of securing a second promotion in 3 years. This time, the club is potentially going from League One to the Championship under the guiding hand of Kenny Jacket, who has previous experience with Wolves of promotion to this league.

Certainly this current season started with a good foundation, on the back of good recruitment, consisting of established players & loanees, mixed with some talented home grown players. With consistent results, Pompey were at the top of the league.

Good football was being played and still is for that matter, but as is the case with the recruitment of the loanee players, although they are contracted for the ‘season’, parent clubs nearly always have a clause inserted which gives them 24 hour recall on that player. This exact scenario occurred before & around Christmas, when they lost Andre Green, Ben Thompson and David Wheeler back to their respective parent clubs. In the case of Green and Wheeler, it was two strikers going out and when that happens, it’s never good for any side.

That said, the squad was bolstered by good signings such as Andy Cannon, Bryn Morris & Omar Bogal, to name but three players who settled in as best they could.

The Team lost a bit of momentum at this time, which resulted in them losing top spot and slipping down the league to Fifth, in a run which comprised with a couple of surprising defeats and a stack of draws, which under different circumstances they may have well won.

This led to some fans surprisingly calling for the head of Jackett and calling for a change in the formation he was playing ( 4 -2- 3- 1) which at face value, looks as if its a defensive minded set up, but on closer inspection is found to be a good overall balance favoured by a lot managers, because of the attacking options it gives whilst keeping stability on the defensive side of the ball.

However, all said and done, results finally picked up, with a couple of good Checkatrade trophy results, in particular the 3-0 away win at Bury, which booked the team’s place at Wembley. In the final, they will face Sunderland. After the Bury game, they continued their resurgence with a 5-1 thumping over Bradford at Fratton Park, which stemmed the flow and steadied the teams position in a credible 5th Place.

Football fans can be a fickle bunch at the best of times, but this seems to have quashed the rumoured disquiet in the Fratton faithful and far from being the disaster that many were saying it was, which should hopefully guarantee them a play-off spot. This in itself would not be a disaster, as last season, the only managed to finish 8th, so an improvement on that position is no mean feat.

The opinion amongst Pompey fans is that they will finish amongst the play-off places. However, listening to the opinion of assistant manager Kevin Gallen, he believes they can continue to improve on past performances.

For Portsmouth, it’s not beyond the realms of possibilities that they can make the automatic places. However, only a series of strong results in the final 11 games would ensure closing the 5 point gap on Barnsley.

Can Portsmouth achieve their aims of promotion this season, whether it be automatic or through the play-offs?

It’s Moore than just an injury: Barnsley lose key player for promotion push

This Thursday, Barnsley announced that striker Kieffer Moore will miss the rest of the season based on medical advice given to the club.

Moore suffered a concussion in a 4-1 victory against Gillingham on the 9th February after clashing with Gills defender, Gabriel Zakuani. Consequently, the Reds’ striker spent the night in hospital in order to aid his recovery.

Barnsley assistant coach Dale Tonge has said: “The player’s welfare is the first thing that we think about.”

 “We’re following medical advice from the top professionals that we’ve used, and we’ve been given the advice that Kieffer should be out for the rest of the season.”

Losing Moore will be a huge blow for Barnsley who are involved in a battle to retain their automatic promotion spot in League One. The Reds currently sit in second, two points clear of Sunderland who have a game in hand.

Moore has bagged 16 goals in 27 appearances this season, with 5 of them coming in his last 6 games.

As well as the goals, Barnsley will miss Moore’s physical presence at the top end of the pitch. His 6’5” frame provides an easy out-ball when the reds are struggling to break down deep blocks and is also a huge threat at set pieces with playmaker Alex Mowatt consistently providing deliveries for Moore to feast on.

Despite this, Barnsley fans can take encouragement from results whenever they’ve been without Moore this season. In the eight games he’s missed, the Reds have taken 18 points out of a possible 24 at an average of 2.25 per game which is greater than the 1.88 points per game that the Reds have attained when Moore has played.

In Moore’s absence, Barnsley Head Coach Daniel Stendel has opted to play a 4-2-3-1 system with Cauley Woodrow as a lone striker. The system seems to suit Stendel’s high-intensity style much better than the 4-4-2 that is used when Moore is present and Stendel’s fellow German Mike Bahre provides energy and tenacity from the number 10 spot.

Stendel is also not short of options if he wants to return to 4-4-2 with wingers Jacob Brown and Mamadou Thiam both capable of playing centrally. This would provide opportunities for both January signing Jordan Green and Welsh winger Ryan Hedges who’ve both struggled for game time this season due to the impressive form of Brown, Thiam and Brad Potts, who left for Preston in the winter window.

Barnsley will be hoping for another three points when they travel to Southend on Saturday in the first of three games in front of the Sky Sports cameras this month with games at Doncaster and Walsall also being broadcast live to the nation.