Daniel Stendel: Why did Barnsley sack him and when could he return to management?

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 08 October 2019, 15:31

Barnsley confirmed on Tuesday morning that it had “separated from Daniel Stendel with immediate effect”.

The odd thing about the statement, though, was that it was just 21 words long; for comparison, Millwall’s statement confirming Neil Harris’ exit was 349 words.

Barnsley did not take the opportunity to put on record their thanks to Stendel for his work at the club, for leading them to automatic promotion last season, or for connecting with the town like few others as a German not fluent in English.

Thanking Stendel would have been good manners and aided an amicable parting.

Clearly, therefore, something is wrong behind the scenes – perhaps there has been some internal conflict...

Stendel exit seems telling

Were the manager in this situation somebody who has a history of getting into squabbles with the board they work with and demanding the exact transfer business they want, then maybe we could say that it was likely to be predominantly them causing the conflict.

Stendel, though, appeared to put very little pressure on the board for transfer activity in the summer of 2018; he was content to work with many members of the squad that had been relegated from the Championship the year before.

Everything about the German suggests he enjoys coaching and is almost quite happy to work with unproven players, because they are more likely to have the energy and enthusiasm to commit themselves to his high-pressing methods.

The fact, therefore, that Stendel is sufficiently unhappy about the way the board have been operating that he may have been prepared to walk, suggests that the way co-owners Chien Lee and Paul Conway operate would unsettle a lot of coaches.

The board’s Moneyball policy

With Norwich and Brentford enjoying success in the Championship by recruiting young players with high sell-on values, it was understandable that Barnsley wanted to try something similar.

And, in fairness to the board, four-year contracts for Luke Thomas and Mallik Wilks could be valuable to the long-term financial health of the club.

However, there is clearly a lack of leadership in defensive areas due to the summer sale of Adam Davies, Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock.

Thinking retrospectively, selling the rock of their foundations - the key to 21 league clean sheets – was a questionable move, especially with no proven replacements coming in.

At the time, it was tempting for this blog to trust Barnsley’s recruitment process in the summer, when they added goalkeeper Samuel Şahin-Radlinger plus centre-backs Aapo Halme, Bambo Diaby and Mads Juel Andersen on stats-based reasoning.

The problem with statistics, though, is that they do not measure a player’s character and how they will influence others – so perhaps Barnsley have skewed their recruitment too far in favour of data, without doing due diligence on the characters of the players or thinking about the equilibrium of the team.

Lack of organisation

Often, the team has relied too heavily on midfielder Alex Mowatt to cover all bases when opposing teams have broken through the initial press.

Because Stendel’s side were so keen to close down opponents in their defensive third – quite natural given the youthful exuberance they possess - they were unable to find the right shape when opponents played a simple ball over the top.

The problem could be solved by adding a calming goalkeeper, an experienced, vocal centre-back, as well as perhaps a holding midfielder to partner Mowatt - even if that means sacrificing Cameron McGeehan or an attacking player.

They though, must wait until January to make the correct acquisitions and by then, they could be too far adrift of safety if they do not alter their mentality.

Barnsley should continue to press, but only with the correct distances between units and within a framework that keeps them defensively secure; with 22 goals conceded in 11 games this season under Stendel, they have clearly been blown wide open.

Rowett an outsider

Gary Rowett, surprisingly as lengthy as 16/1 with BetVictor to get the gig, could be the right type of manager to have a calming influence on the squad, re-organise the team and help them find some defensive solidity.

Click here for the next Barnsley manager market

Certain players in the squad like Wilks, Thomas and McGeehan might need to change the way they position themselves off the ball if Rowett came in – but then, that may have to happen regardless of the manager.

READ: Three names in the frame for the Barnsley job

Stephen Robinson, at Motherwell, is reportedly under consideration – one hopes he has learnt a lot from a challenging stint at Oldham in 2016-17.

What next for Daniel Stendel?

The 45-year-old leaves Oakwell with his reputation enhanced, although it remains to be seen whether he can land a Championship job.

More likely, Stendel’s League One success could interest the next high-profile third-tier club to change manager – it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Sunderland or Portsmouth might fancy the German to get more out of their squads than their current manager.

Stendel is likely to go on to have a positive career in the EFL, should he choose to stay in England – but Barnsley’s board have to re-think their strategy.

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