‘Second Season Syndrome’ is a term that is commonly used in football to describe a players second season at a club.
Many players, in recent time, have failed to give the same performances they gave in their first season.
What I want to know is, does second season syndrome really exist, or is it just down to other factors that are completely out of players’ hands - such as opponents being more aware of their strengths and, more importantly, their weaknesses?
Take for example Papiss Demba Cissé.
Newcastle United signed the Senegalese striker from SC Freiburg in the 2012 January transfer window. He was subsequently given the famous number nine shirt, which holds an awful lot of history (Alan Shearer).
There was immense pressure on him - yet Cissé flourished. He scored an impressive 13 goals in 14 appearances, one of which was the BBC’s Goal of the Season - a curling, swerving effort with the outside of his foot from 37 yards out at a seemingly impossibly angle.
But then the next season, nothing seemed to go right for Cissé.
He scored the same amount of goals in all competitions that he netted in just half a season the year before (13), but this was in an eye-watering 47 appearances. What had happened to the goal-a-game clinical finisher whom we saw arrive on Tyneside? Second season syndrome had well and truly struck. But why?
He was still the same player, so why wasn’t he banging in the goals like when he first signed for Newcastle? Well, luck is obviously a huge factor in football, particularly for a striker, as it’s all about being in the right place at the right time -instinctively making that darting run into the box or towards the back post.
So maybe his luck simply ran out? Or maybe the managers knew how to stop him this season, as did the defenders and goalkeepers (apart from Petr Čech, who forever had re-occurring nightmares about THAT goal... sorry Petr).
Cissé is a fox-in-the-box, he doesn’t have much pace and can’t really beat a player, so maybe defenders pushed up and played a high line against Newcastle, and also man-marked Cissé a lot tighter this time around - it’s always easier for a striker in their first season since nobody really knows their traits as a player, until they get half a season to study him.
Or maybe the pressure just got to him.
There were understandably a lot of high expectations after such a strong introduction to the Premier League the previous season, and maybe he just couldn’t recapture that prolific form under such high pressure from fans and the media.
So perhaps it’s not the player’s fault at all.
There are so many factors that half the time it could just be down to pure luck. He could get injured or be fatigued from playing in an international tournament over the summer.
Players need time to rest and recoup, they always tend to wane towards the end of a campaign and if they don’t get the summer off, international duty could be very tiresome and lead to a sluggish start to the following season’s campaign.
Second season syndrome is not always completely the player’s fault, there are an awful lot of contributing factors, especially in football.
Better luck next season Cissé!
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