Valérien Ismaël’s team can even be recognized on a black and white TV set. Don’t be fooled by their initial 3-4-3 setting. Barnsley with the ball and Barnsley without the ball are two different teams. The phase of constructing their actions is very short and depends on where the ball is taken, but they have one thing in common: they rarely involve more than three passes. The task of the player receiving the ball is to pass it to a better positioned colleague as soon as possible, who in turn must immediately pass it to an empty field. There is no rigid division of tasks and functions here. It all depends on the position at the moment and where the ball is taken over.
Therefore, their formation in attack sometimes takes the shape of 3-4-1-2, often 3-3-3-1, and the strange 2-5-3. They play fast and wide. In the defense, most often 5-3-2 line up, but it is not the shape of the formation that is important here, but the coordination of the closest links. The entire team is putting pressure on the opponent as high and as quickly as possible. The place where they lose their possession is irrelevant. All that matters is recovering the ball or interrupting the opponents’ action. Lots of slide tackles, 1v1 games, doubles, triples. And importantly, at the same high intensity throughout the match.
Weaknesses? Ismaël’s game system is risky and very demanding. Both technically and in terms of condition. Meanwhile, their starting line-up can be easily given and a small rotation and a long season are not the only problems. Basically: they are losing too much and not scoring enough goals. Every misalignment and every loss of the ball puts them in a difficult position on the pitch.