POYA Asbaghi says selling players in January would be ‘a step back’ for Barnsley and ‘hopes’ he already has a squad capable of scoring enough goals to avoid relegation.
The Reds are second-bottom, seven points from safety, after half the Championship season.
The January transfer window opens a week tomorrow.
Captain and top-scorer Cauley Woodrow has been linked with a move to former Reds boss Valerien Ismael’s West Brom, although the Chronicle understands reports they are in ‘advanced talks’ are wide of the mark.
Despite a significant dip in collective and some individual performances since last season’s fifth-placed finish, the likes of Michal Helik, Mads Andersen, Brad Collins and Callum Styles are expected to attract interest in the window.
Helik, 26, and Woodrow, 27, are out of contract at the end of next season.
Head coach Asbaghi told the Chronicle: “Continuity is a really important thing in football.
“For us who have come in as new coaches with new ideas, we want that.
“If we make big changes now, with players leaving, it will be taking one step back. I hope we can keep all the players we want to keep.”
Barnsley have a central midfielder out on loan in Herbie Kane, who has impressed as a regular starter with League One Oxford United.
There is a clause in the season-long loan which would allow the Reds to recall him in next month’s window and the Chronicle understands they are considering doing so.
Asked about Kane, Asbaghi told the Chronicle: “We are looking at all different options. Where we land, we will see.
“We don’t rule anything out.”
Barnsley have one of the youngest squads in English football, especially in central midfield where all their players are 23 or younger with limited experience. Asbaghi told the Chronicle: “In terms of what we need for experience, we need players who are experienced in what we want to teach them and experienced in our gameplan and identity.
“My ambition and demand on the players who have been with us is that they will have to show this soon.
“Then, if in January, more experienced players come in then so be it, but the players who are here are more important right now.”
Asbaghi was coy on what incoming signings the Reds would look to make.
The Reds have 15 goals which is the fewest in the Championship and the fewest at halfway in a Barnsley season since 1905.
Asbaghi, who arrived a month ago, has prioritised making the team defensively strong and now wants to work on the attacking. He believes the strikers in the squad can get more goals.
He told the Chronicle: “If we get to the point where we are doing everything we want the players to do from the build-up, the counter-attack and the set pieces but still we are not scoring with the players we have, I will be worried and think we will not score enough with those players. We have not reached that point. I know there is a lot of improvement we can make, then we will create more chances and I know more goals will come.”
He added: “We need to find more goals to stay in this league. Everybody is aware of that. I hope the most efficient way is to improve the players in the squad. That is my ambition. If we get more goals from a player arriving from the outside, that is another discussion.
“I am comfortable we can improve our offence with the players we have, compared to what we have with the same players. They can create more chances and score more goals.”
Forward Dominik Frieser’s contract was cancelled by mutual consent this week, and more players not in Asbaghi’s plans could leave in the coming weeks.
Defenders Toby Sibbick and Ben Williams have not played under him and could be sold or loaned in January.
Asbaghi told the Chronicle: “In the end, it’s a free market and, if there is a mutual agreement between a club and a player, anything can happen. I hope the players who are not playing as much as they want have the fighting spirit of knowing what they can do to get into the team. We need them to give good competition, because we cannot stay in this league with 13 or 14 players who are doing well. If it is someone who is really disappointed and doesn’t have the energy to stay, it is best for both that we separate. But I am pretty sure that most players who are here who are not playing as much as they want to, want to stay and fight.”
Frieser, the 28-year-old Austrian forward, scored five goals in 62 games for the Reds after joining last year from LASK Linz.
He was almost an ever-present last season and scored twice in August this year but has since slipped out of contention, playing in just three of the last 12 games and none of the last four.
Asbaghi said: “It was a mutual agreement. For Dominik it is a chance to move closer to home with his family.
“Dominik has been super professional and likeable in the changing room.
“We appreciate everything he has done. It’s nothing dramatic, it is pretty normal in football. He has played one game from the start (under Asbaghi) then he didn’t get much time. If he had deserved more I would have given him more time. I felt he had competition and obviously I prioritised other players.”
Frieser told the club website: “I want to thank all Barnsley supporters for their support over the last 18 months. Since arriving in England, you have made this experience one that neither me or my family will ever forget. I hope that you could see that I always gave 100 per cent in every game for you and the club and I enjoyed every minute I played in a Reds shirt. I will always hold Barnsley FC close to my heart and I am sure I will see you all again in the near future.”