If fans are anything like myself, they’ll have grown sick and tired of hearing the name Jacob Butterfield. Thankfully the uncertainty of his future is finally over, and all that remains is the formalities of Norwich’s compensation package.

What perhaps is a little less certain is whom Keith Hill sees as a suitable replacement for Jacob this season. The Reds boss has recently been quoted as touting 17 year old academy product Paul Digby to take the reigns, with Jacob Mellis also seeming a natural choice to replace the former skipper. However I don’t think that Butterfield’s replacement has to be a ‘who’, but it could be a ‘what’ in terms of new systems, as the article below explores the tactics of the Reds as a whole:

Last Season

Last season's 'typical line up' - taken from our game at home vs Coventry
After a slow start and a short space of time where the Reds found their feet, Keith Hill adapted his tactics to the German and Bayern Munich style 4-2-3-1 formation; with Butterfield sitting just behind the striker, looking to dictate the attacks by providing assists and attempting to get on the score sheet himself. The team was built around him, seemingly playing to his strengths and hiding his weaknesses, particularly in occasional lapses of fitness and tracking back. Of course Drinkwater and Vaz Te played into the tactics very well, with Matt Done also playing in various positions including both wings, aswell as behind the striker in games where injuries meant Butterfield was dropped back into the heart of the midfield.

The 'typical' line up of last season is taken from our game vs Coventry City at home, when the Reds completed their longest unbeaten run of 7 games, despite overcoming injuries and suspensions galore in the unbeaten run

What about now?

Going forward, the key question that needs answering, and likely will be answered in the upcoming friendlies, is ‘what tactics will he play now?’. This will not only in my view indicate who will replace Butterfield, but in fact whether he will even attempt to replace him, take my best 11: 


This leaves out the likes of Mellis and Davies, players with plenty of potential quality. Of course competition is healthy in the squad, but I feel that it leaves out a potentially big goal getter this season in Craig Davies. Furthermore, this is all on paper, and it would of course be unfair to judge the players before they’ve kicked a pre-season ball (that’s for next week!) – however I believe it does highlight some of the ‘nice headaches’ Keith Hill might experience over the forthcoming season in the event of a fully fit squad.

Of course in addition to this, I’ve left out who I believe to be 2 quality attacking full backs in Wiseman and Golbourne. Some have pointed out defensive flaws in both, however both players seem to offer plenty going forward – one of the best right wing partnerships of the season gone was when Wiseman was picked to play on the wing in front of Hassell at the back, in the 4-1 New Year’s drubbing of Leeds. Could the solution lay in emulating Roberto Martinez’s tactics at Wigan, playing variations of 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 and 5-3-2? Martinez has pledged to never abandon his fluid Spanish footballing philosophy, and the Spaniard has long been a connoisseur of ‘football for the purist’, a style which Keith Hill seems very keen on himself. For me, it kills 2 birds with one stone: being short at the back, and bringing pace to the midfield whilst having several forward options. Here’s how I could see it panning out:


Of course this arguably leaves even more out; the likes of Hassell, Foster, Mellis, O’Brien and Etuhu.

Building the squad

If anything, this football manager-esque exercise has shown me the options we have. We appear to have a lot of flexibility in defence, despite only making one signing in Lee Collins. We have full backs the can play on the wing, centre backs that can play at full back, and vice versa. Likewise we have a variety of attacking midfield options, wingers that can switch to the centre attacking position or play as a supporting striker.

However, with all strengths come weaknesses. This exercise has highlighted that the squad appears thin in the centre-mid and striking departments. The Reds have 3 experienced players in Perkins, Dawson and Mellis for the central midfield role – though if Hill opts to play 4-2-3-1, Mellis may fill the ‘Butterfield role’, leaving only Paul Digby as a truly recognised central midfielder. Whilst Digby appears to have the quality, only time will tell if he has the mental strength to manage a full season at this level – though I certainly wish him all the best, and hope he manages to break into a successful team this season.

As for strikers, there are also only 3 experienced options with Mido, Davies and Dagnall. Of course the reds do have academy options with Danny Rose and Jordan Clark, though on last sight Danny appears to have the technical ability but lacks the muscle, and Clark appears to play more as a winger or attacking midfielder – perhaps another option to replace Butterfield.

Closing notes

Overall, it seems to me that the squad is taking shape nicely. To bring me back to my opening point – I can see a Barnsley without Butterfield, especially with the number of flexible options Hill appears to have brought in.  Hill has the option of straight swaps with Mellis and moving Done inside, options of new formations to include 2 strikers, or even options of bringing academy players in to fill the void.

What will he do? I honestly don’t know; but Hill’s desired 3 further acquisitions, combined with the friendlies that start next week should answer our questions.

Don’t forget to follow me @MichaelRoach55 and @OnThePontyEnd on Twitter, and feel free to add your views by commenting below – or by tweeting us directly. Thanks for reading!
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Anonymous said...

Hi Mate im actually as West Brom fan but followed Barnsley with interest last season because of a competition i entered. I had to choose 1 from each section that a mate had set up, eg good teams all together, then middle range, then poorer teams.

Barnsley were with the poorer teams BUT i felt that was wrong, and i think i was right until all the injuries came and selling of players, then put you on a dire run.

Anychance i can have your email address so when this competition comes around again in a few weeks time i can get your views?

Brilliant review by the way. I think you need 1 more striker on loan, something different to what uve got already.


Thanks mate

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Anonymous said...

Wba fan here again ive emailed you mate

Anonymous said...

Give Diggers a chance, he's a great lad with fantastic sporting ability and just needs the game experience to prove it. He works really hard and I can't think of anyone better to represent the Reds in their new season :)