So little old Barnsley currently sit in the play-off positions in the Championship as we enter the March international break.
The main point of the article is to discuss the remarkable progress that Barnsley have made and look at the possible how’s and why’s this has happened.
As I try to continue where I left off in the previous article I am now focussing on the data part of the system that Barnsley uses for recruitment purposes.
Before doing a bit of research for this, I thought I knew just how the Barnsley model worked. And I did for the most part but not entirely.
One thing they use is something I had not heard of called PPDA, this stands for passes per defensive action for anyone who was in the same boat as me and thinking what the heck is this. And whilst I have the description I am still not fully sure of how to explain it and what calculations are used. What I did read is that it details the intensity at which a team defends and it is an important statistic when looking to recruit players to play in the gegenpressing style.
Anyway so Barnsley could look at a player who is bagging and assisting for fun and on that basis most other clubs would probably sign that player on that alone. Barnsley however also look to see if that player can sustain pressing and defending high up the field for 90 minutes. If the stats say that they can’t then it is extremely unlikely that Barnsley would sign that player despite their impressive goals and assists tally. The philosophy and way of playing is almost more important than anything else. Perhaps it is felt that they wouldn’t be scoring and assisting if they couldn’t play how Barnsley want to play and also without that way of playing it could be detrimental to the team overall.
It is about creating a financial model and recruitment model that is sustainable and where the club doesn’t live beyond its means but also has to bring success on the field. A juggling act that is hard to manage but one that is working at the moment for Barnsley and also for the other clubs under the same ownership as the reds.
It has to be said though that this philosophy was started at Barnsley under the previous ownership but the new owners have taken the philosophy to a more data driven level.
Previously a lot of players were scouted under the naked eye, as well as using data, on the proviso that they were young and hungry and that the club could potentially develop them to sell for a big profit.
Barnsley’s approach has plucked some absolute gems from the lower leagues and the fact that young players know they will be given a chance at Barnsley makes them more appealing to sign for than many of their rivals so that has given Barnsley the edge in this market.
We will look at some the players that Barnsley are currently developing and those who have already moved on a bit later and show that the Barnsley formula has had a lot more success than failure. Obviously not every signing will work out but the success Barnsley have had with so many who haven’t played at Championship level before is quite unbelievable.