West Bromwich Albion midfielder Alex Mowatt believes former side Barnsley are a much better side than their league position suggests, speaking to his current club’s media team ahead of Friday night’s clash at Oakwell.
After playing a huge part in getting the Tykes to the play-offs last season under Valerien Ismael, scoring eight goals and recording seven assists from central midfield, his team fell at the penultimate hurdle against Swansea City in the play-off semi-final.
Although this was a magnificent achievement for a side that only just escaped relegation by the narrowest of margins at the end of the 2019/20 campaign, it wasn’t enough for ex-manager Ismael to stay, going on to link up with second-tier rivals West Brom at the end of June.
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Mowatt followed him on the expiration of his contract at the start of the following month – and has already made a big impact at The Hawthorns with his presence in the middle of the park.
But his departure came at the South Yorkshire side’s expense, with Poya Asbaghi’s men currently sitting eight points adrift of safety after failing to pick up their form under the former Sweden youth coach straight away, and are at real risk of being cut adrift unless they can turn around their fortunes before the end of the calendar year.
Tykes shot-stopper Brad Collins recently admitted that his side currently deserve to be down in the relegation zone, but someone who believes they are a much better side than the table suggests is ex-skipper Mowatt.
On this topic, the 26-year-old said: “I know it’s going to be a difficult game on Friday.
“They’ll be bang up for it and like me, the gaffer used to be there too so everyone here is up for it.
“I think Barnsley are a lot better than where they are in the league. Hopefully for them they’ll start to come good after Friday’s game, but we’ll be looking to come away with another positive result.
“A good result could be huge for us because we have a chance on Friday to put some early pressure on the teams above us.
“We’re only three points off the top two now and it puts that bit extra on them to get a win.”
Although Barnsley have the potential to be in a much better position with the likes of Michal Helik and Mads Andersen in defence and Carlton Morris and Cauley Woodrow in attack, they haven’t done enough to steer clear of the relegation zone.
Looking at the squad, the South Yorkshire outfit should be doing a lot better but it’s clear they lost their three most important figures from last term.
Ismael was instrumental in their success as a master tactician and someone who was able to regroup his former players when Gerhard Struber unexpectantly left the club for New York Red Bulls at the start of last season, Mowatt not only provided leadership but a real attacking threat in central midfield that proved to be crucial to their success.
And last but certainly not least, ex-loanee Daryl Dike was a goalscoring machine with nine goals in 19 league games during the second half of last season, providing the attacking firepower needed to launch them into the play-offs.
But they failed to do enough in the previous transfer window to fill those gaps and it’s proving to be costly at this stage as they look to keep themselves in contention for survival. Considering their struggles, purely staying in the race has to be the expectation.