Barnsley’s relentless pressing game has been the talk of the Championship in recent times, with rival sides assigned with coming up with the tactics to counter it.
A number have replicated the Reds direct approach and attempted to squeeze the pitch and failed - and promptly made controversial comments about their rivals perceived ‘anti-football’ style or the condition of the playing surface at Oakwell.
It drew the ire of head coach Valerien Ismael after Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Derby County, with the Frenchman firing out a broadside.
Ismael, whose Barnsley side occupy the final play-off position on merit and face the side just below them in Bournemouth in a key fixture on Saturday, said: “It is important for the managers or players to not be disrespectful with their comments.
“Don’t blame the pitch, don’t blame us, just say you wanted to play like this because you respect Barnsley’s pressing. I saw Bristol (City) play like that, Birmingham, now Derby and after they just try to blame us but it is not the truth.
“There is a lot of work every day behind what we do. We stay true to ourselves and if you play against Barnsley, you know what will happen from the first minute until the last.”
Following Ismael into Wednesday night’s after-match press conference, Derby chief Rooney admitted he has never faced a side with tactics like Barnsley’s, but was also quick not to show anything akin to footballing snobbery by directly condemning their methods or look for excuses.
On the night, Derby matched up with Barnsley’s 3-4-3 formation and played a high defensive line in a successful tactical exercise with Rooney believing that competing ‘man for man’ against the hosts’ defensive trio of Mads Anderson, Michal Helik and Toby Sibbick proved the key.
Rooney, who played three forwards in Lee Gregory, Colin Kazim-Richards and Kamil Jozwiak, commented: “It is very different to what we are normally used to playing against and how we usually play. But Barnsley are in a great run of form and we knew we had to change the way we play.
“I think the important thing was stopping their three centre backs from winning the second balls and making sure we were goal side and almost man-marking their three centre-backs when Barnsley had the ball, which I felt worked for us.
“We tried to pin Barnsley’s centre-backs back and in my opinion, they are Barnsley’s best play-makers. When you head the ball out, they normally head it back in and that continues and it becomes a game of head tennis.
“I decided to pin their centre-backs with our three forwards and it worked quite well. The way they play is very awkward and difficult to play against. Fair play to them for playing to their strengths.
“We did not only stand up, but played Barnsley at their game and I felt we did it better than Barnsley did.”
Questioned about whether Barnsley’s style reminded him of the footballing style of Wimbledon which proved so successful throughout the second half of the Eighties and Nineties, he added: “I am not that old!
“Wimbledon’s game was a lot more aggressive in terms of tackles and nastier with the way they play. But I know what you are saying.”
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