Alex Mowatt has been one of the star players at Oakwell ever since he signed, and interest is certain to grow in his signature as the summer draws nearer.
The Tykes arrived in the Championship after a stunning promotion-winning campaign under Daniel Stendel last term, with Alex Mowatt the talisman to help lift them out of League One after just a year in the third tier.
A poor summer of recruitment saw key players around Mowatt sold off to rivals in the Championship, with Ethan Pinnock leaving to Brentford, Adam Davies and Lima Lindsay sold to Stoke City and Kieffer Moore shipped out to Wigan Athletic.
It’s safe to say that this summer business firmly established Barnsley as strong candidates for the drop, and while they won their opening game, they started horribly with a 17-game winless run, only to be ended after the appointment of Gerhard Struber as the club’s new manager.
A change in formation and tactical structure has yielded some positive results for the South Yorkshire side and managed to instil some life into their performances and overall survival bid, but they still remain seven points adrift with just nine games to play.
Struber’s high-pressing style has seen the attacking talents of Jacob Brown, Conor Chaplin and Cauley Woodrow utilised much more effectively in a narrow-diamond formation. However, with the goalscoring exploits of this trio taking a lot of the plaudits, the efforts of Alex Mowatt at the base of the diamond often go somewhat under the radar.
Donning the captain’s armband for the vast majority of the season, Mowatt has played a remarkable amount of games in a row this season, seeing him not miss a single minute of Championship football since August’s draw to Wigan, where he didn’t feature.
This season presented Barnsley with the unique problem of having very few Championship-hardened players in their squad after a spree on youthful ad untested players, meaning Mowatt was the player in the squad needing to step up, as the player with the most appearances in the league prior to the Tykes entrance this season.
His efforts in the middle of midfield have been commendable for Barnsley this season, seeing him register 10 goal involvements from a deep playmaker role, with three goals and seven assists to his name.
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His strongest performance in the final third came as the winless run ended at home to Hull City, where he scored a delightful left-footed effort and added an assist in a 3-1 win over the Tigers.
Heading into the final nine games of the season, Barnsley have it all to do if they want to stay in the Championship for the 2019/20 season, as they need to make up a seven-point deficit once the matches resume.
A relegation could see Barnsley put right back to square one with their squad as more key players could seek pastures new if their League One fate is sealed; there will be a host of clubs looking to strip the first-team squad for parts in the summer as Woodrow, Brown, Chaplin, and Mowatt continue to impress in the face of adversity.
From Mowatt’s perspective, the summer remains shrouded in uncertainty at the moment because there is no point in him making his mind up on where his immediate future lies before Barnsley’s future is resolved. Survival would see the club have far more leverage to keep hold of their star players and potentially look to build around them under Struber, who would have a full pre-season under his belt.
Meanwhile, relegation could mean it’s curtains for Mowatt’s time at Oakwell as he has certainly shown enough to remain in the Championship beyond this season.
If Barnsley want any chance of convincing Mowatt to stay for next season, they must first fight tooth and nail to stay in the division, and then show far more intent in the summer to recruit well around the best players that they have, rather than building to replace them.