Unlike in League One, when off-days did not always mean defeats, the trio of disappointing performances against Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City and Luton Town have seen the Reds dealt three losses while conceding seven goals and scoring just one consolation strike.
In the other games, they have beaten Fulham on the opening day and had the better of draws against Charlton Athletic and Wigan Athetic. Had they not conceded a late penalty against Charlton and taken one of their several chances in Wigan on Saturday, the Reds would have more than the five points from six games which is their lowest tally at this point in a campaign since David Flitcroft’s terrible start to 2013/14.
This Jekyll and Hyde inconsistency is to be expected for a newly-promoted side with a dozen new signings, barely any experience at this level and now a major injury crisis.
The Reds will be jealously eyeing fellow promoted side Charlton’s 14 points from six games which have them currently in the automatic promotion places. But they have made a better start than Stoke City and Huddersfield Town, two sides tipped to compete for promotion but struggling with one point from six games each so far.
With 120 points to play for, the current table is likely to bear very little resemblance to the standings in May. But the Reds will know that they will survive if they can tip the balance of performances to more good than bad while making sure they win the majority of the games in which they are the better side.
There is no doubt that the defending has been very poor at times but Barnsley have shown in other games that they are good enough to keep out Championship attacks, providing the platform for precious wins.
Whereas the first six matches looked relatively easy on paper, the next section of the season appears more tricky. In a sign of the multi-cultural nature of the Championship, Barnsley’s five matches between the first and second international breaks are against teams managed by men from Argentina, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Scotland.
German Stendel is set to pit his wits against Marcelo Bielsa – one of the most idolised coaches in the world who inspired the likes of Pep Guardiola – then Sabri Lamouchi and Phillip Cocu who reached the highest level as players before taking their first jobs in English football this season.
Clubs such as Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Derby County are the well-supported historically successful sleeping giants which make the Championship one of the most intriguing and difficult leagues in the world – while they all have far more experienced and expensively assembled teams than Barnsley.
The Reds are set to play just three matches in five weeks, which includes this current international break, so Stendel will have plenty of time on the training pitch to work with his young squad. It will also be a chance for the likes of Alex Mowatt, Cameron McGeehan, Cauley Woodrow, Jacob Brown, Jordan Williams and Bambo Diaby to return to full fitness which would make a huge change to the team’s dynamic. The character and defensive solidity shown at Wigan combined with that extra quality should yield good returns for the Reds.
This could be the time when we either see this young side flourish, learn from their experiences in the Championship and adapt better to their manager’s style, or it could be another tough month as their post-promotion confidence continues to leak out of them. By the time of the second international break, we will be a quarter of the way through the season and should be getting some idea of where Barnsley will be competing in the table and who against.