Gerhard Struber will bring a ‘diamond midfield and a high-press’ to Barnsley FC
READ MORE - Barnsley appoint Struber
Austrian league analyst Anna Konovalova says the Reds can expect a style of play which is “fast and vertical, but not headless; clever, but not too complicated; exciting to watch and fruitful.”
It will be based around the 4-4-2 fundamental to Struber’s “very strictly-developed football philosophy”.
That is the formation Struber has used since his formative days coaching Red Bull Salzburg’s youth teams through to the job he has just left, at Austrian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger AC.
“We’re talking about a pressing-and-counterpressing-oriented 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield,” explains Konovalova.
“Two forwards usually focus on pressing the opposition centre-backs, the diamond is often quite wide, offering support to the full-backs, and intercepting the ball in central midfield is vital.”
Set-pieces were another feature of Wolfsberger’s football.
Konovalova describes 42-year-old Struber as a gifted graduate of Austria’s strongest coaching school, a breeding ground for talented coaches as well as players, with pressing football at its heart. The Austrian made “textbook” progress through the age groups until taking the assistant manager’s job in 2015. His first season was a difficult one, and when he returned to the development ranks he was unable to build on predecessor Marco Rose’s UEFA Youth League triumph. Although he was moved to a non-coaching role after being put in charge of Salzburg’s reserve team, Liefering, in 2017, Konovalova stresses: “There were many on- and off-field factors, so no blame was put on Struber directly.”
It did not dampen the enthusiasm around his arrival at Wolfsberger. And he soon justified it, starting the club’s first Europa League campaign with a 4-0 win at Borussia Monchengladbach, and following it with a 1-1 draw against Roma.
A small squad’s form has dipped since but not unexpectedly, according to Konovalova. They are third in their domestic league after 14 games but already eight points behind the top two, and although they are bottom of their Europa League group, the gap to next week’s opponents, second-placed Monchengladbach, is only a point.
Struber is no shrinking violet in the technical area. “He is always active and loud,” says Konovalova, “and he lets his emotions go over the top from time to time.” He was fined after clashing with the opposition coaching staff at Rapid Vienna in October.
A pedigree working with young players was clearly an attraction for Barnsley, given their youthful squad. If the Reds are as frugal in January’s transfer window as they were in the summer’s, it should not be a problem.
“It’s not like it was that different for him at Wolfsberger,” says Konovalova. The squad he has worked with this season was largely inherited, “with quite a similar style and approach, but different in details and personnel in several positions.”
Konovalova warns that, “even a club struggling to survive in the Championship will be a big step up compared to a club that still has a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League.” Despite their European adventures, WAC remain are ‘minnows’.
“Struber has shown that a good structure and clear, understandable philosophy are able to cope with bigger names.”