Barnsley v Swansea City – Ability to adapt key as Poya Asbaghi attempts to lift Reds

Poya Asbaghi has had two days to drum his way of playing into his new Barnsley players ahead of tonight’s home game against Swansea City. It is just as well he has served an apprenticeship on coaching in fast forward.

MOVING ON: Poya Asbaghi was in charge of Sweden Under-21s up until eight days ago, but is relishing the daily contact his new post as head coach at Barnsley will bring him. Picture: Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images.

Eight days ago, the Iranian-born 36-year-old was in Dublin, taking charge of Sweden Under-21s for the last time. The next morning he was appointed head coach of Championship Barnsley.

Asbaghi and his assistant Ferran Sibila were in the stands at Craven Cottage to watch the Reds on Saturday, but it was only on Monday they officially started work, taking their first training session at Oakwell.

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They have had to be choosy about what information to throw at the players and how, but for someone so young, Asbaghi has plenty of relevant experience.

MEET THE PRESS: Poya Asbaghi, pictured at his first press conference as Barnsley head coach on Monday at Oakwell. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC .

“One of the most frustrating things about being an international coach is you have them for such a short time and you cannot talk about everything,” says Asbaghi of his year in the Swedish set-up. “You have to chose what you talk about and talk about the things you think will most help you to win the next game.

“Coming from club football, where you’re used to having players every day and a pre-season where you can have a lot of time, it was a change.

“I felt I really learned this part, about knowing what to say and keeping it short.

“In the art of coaching you have to be able to mix it up. If the dialogue is only one way and I only show videos, people will get tired if there is a lot of information. If the information is only on the training pitch, people will get tired. If you only talk through the tactical board or animations and there’s a lot of information, people will get tired. But if you are good at mixing it up, people can maybe stay awake during the theory for longer and really pay attention to what’s been said.

Poya Asbaghi, head coach of IFK Goteborg and IF Elfsborg. Picture: Nils Petter Nilsson/Getty Images

“It’s about addressing first of all the things we need to develop as a team no matter the opponent and at the same time knowing what will be most necessary against Swansea. We will not talk about things we know we will not have to use today.”

Asbaghi has been coaching for 16 years, in the top job since 2016 where he started his ascent up the league pyramid at Dalkurd, then a third-tier club in the country which became his after his family fled to Sweden to avoid political persecution when he was one. Spells at Gefle, then Gothenburg, followed before the more sporadic international scene. He is relishing day-to-day contact.

“I liked the job I had because I worked with the biggest talents Sweden has,” he says. “It’s a privilege to work with your national team and Sweden is my country. When you represent Sweden, you represent everybody you’ve ever known, from teachers to dentists, everybody. It’s a big honour.

“Some coaches can really enjoy that life for a long time. I like the everyday routine and the control of affecting the players more.

“There was a part of me that was longing for club football again but my intention was not to leave after a year – that was because I got this challenge.”

He has had a lot of catching up to do in the last week.

“I’ve been analysing the games,” he says. “I was caught up in my own job until last week but the closer I got to this job it’s been pretty intense days and I think I have a pretty good picture of what has been. Out of respect for previous coaches, I don’t like to talk about that but I can assure I have a pretty good picture of what has happened and what I need to do.

“I’ve seen most games this season and I feel I have a pretty clear picture of what we need to do.”

The continuity Barnsley’s model is supposed to create has not extended to playing styles, lurching from Gerhard Struber’s possession game to the uber-direct Valerien Ismael, then the no-man’s land of Markus Schopp.

“I want our team to be controlling the different phases of the game in a good way,” says Asbaghi. “We want to be a team that wants to press and if you look at the mentality of the players, they have this mentality. Then they have to know from which organisation we can do it and I’m really hopeful we can be smarter in our attacking, knowing where we have advantages on the pitch, no matter if that means playing short or playing a direct ball.”

It was noticeable that at Craven Cottage Barnsley started in Asbaghi’s preferred 4-2-3-1, and by all accounts improved markedly when they returned to an Ismael/Schopp 3-4-3 after 55 minutes. So what can Reds fans expect?

“You’ll get to see,” is all Asbaghi would say. “Normally it’s good if you can have continuity but we have to be ready to adapt depending on what players we have available and the opponents, without making confusion.”

Last six games: Barnsley LLWLLL; Swansea City DLWWLW

Referee: D Webb (County Durham)

Last time: Barnsley 0 Swansea 1, May 17, 2021, Championship play-off semi-final, first leg.