Barnsley: Reds boss Lee Johnson hits back at ‘negative football’ critics

Dan Crowley is available for selection again this weekend
Dan Crowley is available for selection again this weekend

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson has hit back to criticism his side play ‘negative’ football.

The Reds have played with a lone striker on a number of occasions this season and Johnson prefers to play with three central midfielders instead of the more common 4-4-2 formation.

“I’d say those critics are wrong,” said Johnson, speaking ahead of today’s home clash with third-placed Gillingham.

“At the end of the day though there’s nothing negative about the brand of football we’re playing because we’re trying to get players in the box.

“Our game is coming together, but it takes times for things to gel.

“We don’t set up to be negative, we set up to win. There’s a natural instinct for people to say why is he [the manager] playing [only] one [striker] up front at home?

“At this moment in time I think our best chance of winning a game is playing three in midfield.

“We can’t play a 4-4-2 formation very well because we haven’t got natural centre midfielders who can deal with the certain scenarios that appear within a 4-4-2.

“When we’ve gone 4-4-2 we’ve gone quite exposed and often conceded.

“But I obviously see the players day-in, day-out. We could play 3-5-2, which we’d be comfortable in, but again each formation we play has strengths and weaknesses.

“Now I say that formations shouldn’t matter if you’re playing to the style and philosophy. We’re effectively playing a 5-5-5, we’re trying to create numerical advantages all over the pitch.

“We’ve got a group that needs that strength in midfield. And we’ve done alright according to the stats.”

Arsenal loan midfielder Dan Crowley is available for selection this weekend having recovered from a thigh injury, but winger Ryan Williams is missing with a groin problem.

And Johnson also revealed the chances of signing Liverpool trialist Brad Smith have all but disappeared.

Australian international winger Smith has been training with the Reds, but Johnson admitted: “It’s probably a no-go due to the fact that Liverpool are still trying to keep him.

“They’re also demanding some strong compensation for him which is their prerogative and they’re entitled to do.

“Brad’s got a decision to make now. Does he re-sign for Liverpool for the right reasons? Or does he move on?

“If he moves on then any club would have to pay a healthy transfer fee.

“It’s difficult because he wanted to get first-team football somewhere because he didn’t get that at Liverpool, but Liverpool obviously still feel he has the potential to get into their first-team.”