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.

 

Tactics


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.

Wombles

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.
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