The former Crystal Palace and Bayern Munich player was appointed as the Reds’ new head coach last Friday, taking the seat vacated by Gerhard Struber earlier this month, and watched from the stands at the weekend as his new team drew at Millwall.
Barnsley are one of two sides yet to win in the Championship this season and as a result the Frenchman, who last coached LASK in Austria last season, will have little time to settle in before needing some results.
Happily, the club took a comprehensive search to locate the man best suited to their style and philosophy, and in 45-year-old Ismael they believe they have somebody who will work with their young squad and continue to play a high-tempo, intense pressing style, even in roughly the same 3-4-3 formation.
Asked to describe the football he wants his team to play in his first press conference on Monday, Ismael said: “Intensity, mentality, vertical game. It is a tough way to play football and I want the mentality of the players to say 'we are not happy with a draw, we never accept losing a game and we fight until the last minute with our philosophy.”
The demands, both physical and mental, sound like they will be as high as under his predecessor. With many likely similarities in set-up, the transition ought to be smoother than is often the case under a new boss, but the proof of his impact will only be seen on the pitch in the coming months.
It would be unreasonable to ask for a transformation in this match, two days after taking his first training session, but Ismael’s arrival should at least bring a different drive to the players whose places are now up for grabs, and having seen events unfold on Saturday he may make raft of changes for his first teamsheet.
One positive is that he doesn’t start off against a team full on confidence. QPR haven’t won since the opening day and have failed to hit the net in three matches, enduring stalemates with Bournemouth and Birmingham City since the international break with a loss to Preston North End in between.
Mark Warburton has seen his side register just one shot on target in the last two games, and a switch from the usual 4-2-3-1 at the weekend had little impact on their current lack of potency. With the matches coming thick and fast, big changes in personnel may be next as they look to finally find some form.
Both Jordan Williams and Cauley Woodrow were withdrawn from the warm-up at Millwall with hamstring injuries and are doubts for this match, while Callum Styles will hope to return to the Barnsley line-up after a knock.
QPR lost left-back Lee Wallace early in the match against Birmingham with an ankle injury, while it will be too soon for George Thomas (thigh) to return. Tom Carroll was rested at the weekend and could come back into the team.
Barnsley: Walton; Sollbauer, Helik, Andersen; Brittain, James, Mowatt, Styles; Thomas, Chaplin, Schmidt.
QPR: Dieng; Kakay, Dickie, Barbet, Hamalainen; Cameron, Ball; Osayi-Samuel, Chair, Carroll; Dykes.
What the managers have said
Ismael has only had a couple of days in charge of the Barnsley team to prepare for this first game as head coach and he admits there is little he can do in that time.
He said: “I don't have a lot of time, only one training session. I have to find the right topic for the team. The two big topics are out of possession and in position. I need to see a game to see how we close the gap to where I want to go.
“We hope for a win, it is always good when you start with a win. But the second thing is to make a step in the right way. We have trained with some new skills and I want to see this in the game. I want to see a big mentality and it will be good if we win to get more confidence.”
Rangers manager Warburton outlined what he expects from his opposition boss. “I don’t think he will change too much,” he said. “I think he’ll wait until the international break to put his handprint really on the team.
“I think they’ll keep the three (at the back). He’ll come in and observe, Adam (Murray, caretaker boss) has done a great job for them, so they’ll be a very tough team at Oakwell.
“We have to go to Barnsley with a really clear mind set. They have good energy, they attack openly, but they give you chances as well. We have to be very resolute defensively and make sure we exploit any opportunity that comes along.”
On criticism of QPR’s recent attacking struggles, Warburton added: “Bear in mind we had so much criticism about (conceding) goals last year, it’s all we heard. Now we have clean sheets it’s ‘well you’re not scoring many goals this year.
“We’ve had a lot of change with eight or nine players coming in… it takes time. It takes several weeks to get them gelled.”
Barnsley won both clashes last season, including a 5-3 thriller in the fixture at Oakwell when Conor Chaplin struck a hat-trick. That was a third visit in a row without success for QPR, who last won in this corner of South Yorkshire in 2014.