On the 17th of November 2021, the Reds announced the appointment of Swedish-Iranian head coach Poya Asbaghi as the club’s new gaffer. With Spaniard Ferran Sibila, (who we’ll get onto later), as his assistant.

With an appointment that certainly seemed more spreadsheet focussed from the club than his predecessor Markus Schopp (the less said about him the better), a lot of the discourse around Grove Street quickly shifted to; ‘How is this guy going to set us up to play?’.

Well, I’m going to try and explain just that. But firstly, I’m sure I echo the thoughts of many fans in welcoming Poya and his team to ‘Tarn’, I wish them all the best in hopefully bringing back the good times to Oakwell.



The first thing that has to be acknowledged about Asbaghi’s ‘typical’ tactics is that whilst the core principles of his game tend to remain relatively consistent, he likes to shift between a few different formations. 

His three most favoured set-ups in Sverige were; 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-3-2. With the latter of the tripartite being the formation he used to beat Malmo FF in the Swedish Cup final.

However, due to personnel and Asbaghi’s recent success with his Sweden U21’s side, I’d expect the Reds to favour the 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 under Asbaghi. The former being due to the Reds’ gluttony of Centre-Halves and the latter due to Asbaghi’s superb success with Sweden U21’s, where he deployed the 4-2-3-1 to perfection as he guided them to 6 wins from 10 games. 

With the 4-2-3-1 certainly, Asbaghi has favoured a team press, with the press of his Göteborg side being most interesting, where he mostly committed five players high and with a man-orientated scheme. The most important man-marking part was the midfield, where a midfielder would drop deeper to mark the opposition’s most advanced midfielder or second striker, while two other two targets (often the midfield two) were marked by the far-side winger and another midfielder. The ball-side winger should close the ball-side full-back, while the strikers were pressing the centre-backs in a 2-2. That may sound very complicated, I know - but visually it would look like a much more coordinated press than what we have seen for a long while, where every player would be given a specific role to perform in the attacking unit.

Personnel wise, I’m pretty confident in making a prediction that whoever the left-sided attacker is in Asbaghi’s system is going to be pretty fruitful, whether that be Aaron Leya-Iseka or Carlton Morris. I’d also imagine that we may finally see a Callum Brittain that somewhat resembles the player we all watched on iFollow last season, with Asbaghi liking his full-backs to bomb on high up the pitch, whether that be in the 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1. Finally, I can also envisage a world where Claudio Gomes is afforded masses of time on the ball, due to the system the Swede favours, to pick out some real Hollywood passes.


This is where I’m going to get onto Asbaghi’s assistant, 33 year-old Spaniard, Ferran Sibila.

An exponent of the Ekkono method, (it has been mentioned this may sound very similar to Orinoco the Womble), Sibila has some really bright ideas about the way that footballers should be coached, so I’m going to briefly cover what said Ekkono method entails.

The Ekkono Method is a training methodology in which the objective is to ensure that players are capable of correctly interpreting the game and finding intelligent solutions in the field. It has four major guidelines which I’ll outline here; 

Games: Design and continuous readjustment of the training tasks to make sure that players are embedded in the learning context. 

Perception: Perceptive training is included in the content planning to ensure players have strong in-game perception mantras. 

Questions: When training, the players are confronted with problematic situations and they are asked to answer questions. 

Concepts: Training contents is not enough; concepts need to be trained as well, a concept may be for example the concept of ‘Gegenpressing’ or ‘Tiki-Taka’. 

Thus, coaches often specialise in improving a players’ physical and technical aspects because these qualities are perceived as the most important. However, there is a third key part to the game that is often overlooked. 

This is the cognitive aspect of the game – the way players perceive the game and make crucial decisions in the field. 

This is as much psychology as it is sport, but I’m really excited about the prospect of Ekkono at Oakwell, especially as it has been mentioned to me many times on the terraces this season that we are possibly lacking a ‘psychological edge’ that we once possessed. 

Unfortunately I don’t have a looking glass in which I can tell you where we’re going or where we’re bound, but hopefully Poya & Ferran can turn our world around and guide us into a much more comfortable position in the Championship table. 

Whatever happens next, I think we should strap ourselves in for another Magical Mystery Tour. 

What do you think? All feedback is appreciated, if you want to comment on this article or chat about Barnsley Football Club, you can find me on Twitter, my handle is @TomOTPE.
The new Championship season is around the corner and our EFL pundit and co-host of podcast 'There Is a Floodlight That Never Goes Out', Tom shares his 21/22 season preview, with his 1-24 predictions.

Peterborough Utd- Darren Ferguson is back in the second tier with Posh and I believe he’ll lead them to survival…. Just. Jonson Clarke-Harris scores lots of goals, and the addition of serial League One assist-machine Jorge Grant to go in tandem with him will keep Posh up. I really like Peterborough’s side in general, actually. But they will ship a lot of goals with a defence that, barring Josh Knight and possibly Mark Beevers, isn't really Championship standard.
Prediction: 21st

Preston North End- Frankie McAvoy is not the one, North End. I have to concede that he did a marvellous job at the back end of last season in a temporary role but how many times have we seen managers who were the temporary boss fail to be successful full-time? A solid core with Liam Lindsay, Alan Browne & Ched Evans will keep them clear of the drop zone but nowhere near enough quality is in that squad to jump into the top-half.
Prediction: 17th

Queens Park Rangers- Mark Warburton is a solid gaffer at this level, but nothing more and nothing less. Many EFL followers are tipping the R’s for a Top 6 berth but I just personally don’t see them making such a huge step up. It is undeniable that the duo of Dykes & Austin will score goals. Plus when you factor into the equation that Rob Dickie is one of the best CB’s in the division with Midfield Magicians Stefan Johansen and Ilias Chair possessing magic in their boots you may ponder why I don’t have Rangers in a play-offs berth but unfortunately I just think over 46 games they are not play-off standard. But a class season for the men from Loftus Road nonetheless.
Prediction: 8th

Reading- Vejlko Paunovic did an albeit underwhelming job with the Royals last season following their magnificent start. And with the loss of Michael Olise along with the fact of being yet another club who has had to reign in their spending, I feel as if mid-table mediocrity looms, with only the odd piece of magic from Ovie Ejaria being anything of any note at the newly re- named ’Select Car Leasing Stadium’.
Prediction: 13th

Sheffield United- Slavisa Jokanovič just knows how to win games of football in this league doesn’t he. I think he really has a job on his hands turning round the mentality of this Blades squad but if he successfully does so then a cracking season is in store for them. Brewster, McBurnie, McGoldrick, Sharp, Mousset & Jebbison is an outstanding forward line. The midfield and defence are high standard too and I back a certain Luke Freeman to finally prove his worth in a Sheffield Utd shirt. A solid play-off finish.
Prediction: 5th

Stoke City- Michael O’Neill has to get it right with the Potters this term. Souttar, Wilmot, Brown, Campbell & Powell just to name a few are incredible players in this league and they must push very hard for the Top 6. However, I don’t quite trust them to get over the line for the play-offs. But still a big improvement from the last three seasons. Tyrese Campbell to bag 15+ if he can stay fit.
Prediction: 7th

Swansea City- No gaffer as of yet whilst recording for the Swans so I’ll just talk about the squad. Guehi, Ayew & Hourihane have all left the Liberty and tough times are on the horizon in my opinion. Not as bad a season as some are predicting but quite the drop-off from the highs of reaching the P/O final last season. But for those Swans fans who are purists the emergence of Liam Cullen as their number 9 may be something of note in what may be an otherwise average season.
Prediction: 14th

West Bromwich Albion- Big bloody Val. WBA have an outstanding gaffer in Valerien Ismael- and if the players bit into his philosophy the Baggies will do very well. Karlan Grant to score A LOT of goals. I know awfully too well how good Alex Mowatt is & what a signing for WBA. But it’s the defence which is really too good for this league. Ajayi, Clarke, Bartley, Townsend, Furlong & O’Shea. Wow. Big problems lay ahead for WBA if the players don’t buy into VI’s way of playing and I can see a change of manager mid-season if that does happen, but with the quality they have even if they are languishing in 10th at Xmas I can still see them finishing T2 in the end. Boing Boing.
Prediction: 2nd

Read Part 1: AFC Bournemouth > Coventry City

Read Part 2: Derby County > Nottingham Forest
The new Championship season is around the corner and our EFL pundit and co-host of podcast 'There Is a Floodlight That Never Goes Out', Tom shares his 21/22 season preview, with his 1-24 predictions.

Derby County- Wayne Rooney has a thankless job with the Rams, and I don’t see him lasting at Pride Park beyond October. With, using common sense, Derby having only around 14 first-team players, with two of them being ‘Goalies there is no doubt they will fall into the Third tier in my eyes. Not to mention the complete lack of a Centre-Half. The only reason they will not prop up the Division is the little bit of magic they possess in Louie Sibley & Kamil Jozwiak plus the possible Winter return of Krystian Bielik. Time to face up to reality, Rams, and unfortunately for those of a ‘Dorbeh’ persuasion, that means impending relegation.
Prediction: 24th.

Fulham- I really like the appointment of Marco Silva. A manager who is tactically astute and knows how to get the best out of continental players. They have all the right ingredients to storm the league with Harrison Reed, Aleksandr Mitrovic,, Ivan Cavaleiro, Harry Wilson & Joe Bryan just to name some of their stars leading the charge. I back them to blow many teams away. My only concern is if they don’t start well, but even then the squad they have surely has too much for this League? Either way I back the Cottagers.
Prediction: 1st

Huddersfield Town- Carlos Corberan is a student of ‘El Loco’, Marcelo Bielsa, with his relentless pressing game and yet has built an ageing Terriers side with a seeming inability to press. Jordan Rhodes, Ollie Turton & Matty Pearson are absolutely shocking signings, not to mention that they probably have the worst Goalkeeping roster in the league with Lee Nicholls and Ryan Schofield. The only shining light for the Terriers is their young lads, and Levi Colwill excites me for certain- a central defender with class. As does Josh Koroma who is far too good for the Terriers, and will undoubtedly play in the Premier League in my view. Time to start preparing the ‘Welcome to League One Huddersfield Town’ banners for the train station.
Prediction: 22nd

Hull City- Grant McCann is actually quite a decent League One manager, but just not quite up to the Championship standard in the view of my red tinted spectacles. The summer signings for ‘Ull provide me with a distinct sense of dread for their upcoming season, George Moncur, Randell Williams & Andy Cannon are bad signings. With the not-affectionately labelled ‘Crab-Man’ George Moncur being a particularly porous addition. Mallik Wilks & Keane Lewis-Potter may provide some spark for The Tigers but a defence which consists of largely League One level full-backs (Lewis Coyle, Josh Emmanuel & Callum Elder) and no Championship level centre-backs will concede goals for fun. In the spirit of fairness I have to mention how good George Honeyman was last season but losing his partner in crime Regan Slater will be a big loss. Sorry Hull fans, but this is the reality of the Championship.
Prediction: 23rd.

Luton Town- Nathan Jones, I salute you sir. What a job the Welshman has done since returning to Kenilworth Road, and this next season I can really see the Hatters having a lot of fun. Luton’s forward line is really exciting, with Cameron Jerome, Admiral Muskwe, Elijah Adebayo, Harry Cornick & Carlos Mendes-Gomes set to make a few Champ defenders look silly. This isn’t even a ‘hipster’ prediction- Luton’s recruitment has actually been very good. In ‘Moneyball’ Peter Brand describes the recruitment process as buying runs in Baseball- and effectively thus, Wins. Luton are doing exactly that with their signings, Henri Lansbury, Allan Campbell, Cameron Jerome, Carlos Mendes-Gomes & Admiral Muskwe will score you goals and win you games. I’d be very excited if I was a Luton fan right now.
Prediction: 4th

Middlesborough- Neil Warnock, I love that man so much. He’s the promotion specialist but I sneakily suspect yet another promotion will evade his grasp this term as his Boro side don’t have quite enough in the tank. Uche Ikpeazu is such a Warnock player and I think the Summer signing will bag a hatful. Warnock merely lacks a magician, a Michael Tonge, an Adel Tarrabt, a Junior Hoilett. Secure in the Top half.
Prediction: 11th

Millwall- Gary Rowett has built a Lions side that now looks as if it finds it impossible to drop beneath 16th and yet not finish higher than 8th. Odd. Jed Wallace and Jake Cooper are as always two Blue-Chip players in this league. Only the lack of a reliable goalscorer such as a Woodrow or a Solanke will prevent ‘Millll’ from finishing Top 6. Another good season for Rowett’s men.
Prediction: 9th

Nottingham Forest- Chris Hughton is an outstanding manager in this league, but he doesn’t have a ‘Hughton team’. By that I mean his NFFC side isn’t the finished article, with only the two Joe’s, Worrall & Lolley being archetypal Hughton players. But I do back them to be a very good team in patches and Brennan Johnson really excites me- he’s a bloody magician. In a nod to a track from the Beatles’ white album, I shall refer to him as Bungalow Brennan from now on. A solid, nonetheless underwhelming season for the two-time European champs.
Prediction: 10th

Read Part 1: AFC Bournemouth > Coventry City

Read Part 3: Peterborough United > West Bromwich Albion
The new Championship season is around the corner and our EFL pundit and co-host of podcast 'There Is a Floodlight That Never Goes Out', Tom shares his 21/22 season preview, with his 1-24 predictions.

AFC Bournemouth - Whilst it’s an appointment that has been bashed in the media- Scott Parker does seem to be a good fit for Bournemouth. I like the football Parker plays and I certainly think the Cherries can push on this season. Dom Solanke to improve once more, Ben Pearson to eat up Championship midfielders and David Brooks to be his usual maverick self. The Cherries will push hard for Top 2 but fall just short.
Prediction: 3rd

Markus Schopp is a bit of an unknown to 22 managers in this league isn’t he. Only Valerien Ismael knows what to expect. A variation of ‘Struber-Ball’ and ‘Ismael-Ball’ seems to be coming to Grove Street and I for one am excited. Now of course the losses of Alex Mowatt & Daryl Dike will be felt but I feel as if we’ve replaced well whilst also having the quality in the squad to succeed them anyway. To start with the Mowatt replacement job- Josh Benson is a class addition from Burnley and appears to have class in abundance. And with Herbie Kane to step out of the shadows, Callum Styles to step into the middle, Romal Palmer stepping up the consistency, with Big Aapo still doing the business when called upon and who knows- Marcel Ritzmaier possibly just stepping up to the gauntlet, the Reds’ midfield could be even stronger. And despite the fact Dike & Chaplin have left Oakwell, I actually think the Forward line has indeed improved, Aaron Leya Iseka, Obbi Oulare & Devante Cole are class additions and I’m really excited about Leya Iseka in particular- with the Belgian having rumoured to have commanded a fee that smashed the Georgi Hristov/Mike Sheron transfer record. Cartlon Morris is the ‘Tarn Thierry Henry’ and for me is one of the best players in the league- not very often have I seen a player at Oakwell who is as exciting as he. Cauley Woodrow the new skipper gets better and better, and at this club I have to applaud his loyalty, something we very rarely see nowadays- what a boy. Dom Frieser and Clarke Oduor are both very useful assets in the attack too with the former never stopping running & the latter being somewhat mercurial. Defence wise our central defence is rather impeccable, Helik, Andersen, Sibbick, Moon, Kitching & Sraha, it could be impregnable at times. Cal Brittain and Jordan Williams as wing-backs also really excite me. The only thing I worry about is over-playing in our own half but I trust this set of lads and I truly believe we’re one of the 6 best teams in the League again this season.
Prediction: 6th

Birmingham City- Lee Bowyer is such an average manager I can neither praise nor berate him. Brum’s business has flattered to deceive for me this Summer, and the additions of Jordan Graham, Tahith Chong & Ryan Woods just to name a few don’t inspire me. Another tawdry season of nothingness for the Blues, with the odd goal from the Juke keeping them well clear of safety.

Blackburn Rovers- Put simply Tony Mowbray should’ve been given his P45 at the end of May. The failure to do so from the Venky’s , places Rovers in a precarious position & with the inevitable loss of Adam Armstrong and the Bradley Dark-shaped void continuing for another season, the ‘Burn’ in the words of Liam Gallagher in 95’, will struggle. A scrap for survival beckons.
Prediction: 19th

Blackpool- There’s a few reasons that Blackpool will survive but the main one, is the Neil Critchley factor. He is an outstanding Coach at this level who without doubt will achieve great things within the game. Other factors for me include, Kenny Dougall being majestic, Jerry Yates scoring goals & Chris Maxwell stopping them going in. Survival would be a success for the Seasiders and despite it probably being a long-hard struggle, they will achieve just that.
Prediction: 20th

Bristol City- Nigel Pearson still hasn’t got the right minerals in this squad that he so vitally needed following last term’s shambolic home form. The Only positive for the Robins is that certain young players such as Tyreeq Bakinson will continue to improve, but other than that a poor season ahead. I’ll put my neck on the line here and say that by Christmas Pearson will have left Ashton Gate.
Prediction: 18th

Cardiff City- Big Mick to get the Barnsley Schopp early on. By that pun I mean that Mick McCarthy will barely survive ’til Xmas with Cardiff languishing in the bottom Half before another gaffer has a slight resurgence with the Bluebirds taking them up to a respectable twelfth. Kieffer to bag a few less than he did last season in a side that desperately needed reinforcements but couldn’t afford them. The young ’uns are going to be relied on heavily.
Prediction: 12th

Coventry City- Mark Robins has done an outstanding job with Cov. I back him to build on the back of last season with a respectable 15th in their first season back at the Ricoh in the Champ in 9 years. The loss of Leo Ostigard is the only reason why the Sky Blues don’t quite crack the top half but I still really like them as a team. McFadzean, O’Hare & Godden is a brilliant core.
Prediction: 15th

Read Part 2: Derby County > Nottingham Forest

Read Part 3: Peterborough United > West Bromwich Albion