Premier League: Six stars set to continue shining
Six Premier League stars who will be hoping to avoid 'second-season syndrome'
Every season when a club signs a new player, fans expect a lot. Some players perform exceptionally in that debut season, dazzling spectators with goals, creativity or solidity in defence.
Enter what is now known as the 'second-season syndrome'.
The same players who displayed potential of being Premier League greats in their first seasons simply fade in the succeeding season. Some flop in their second seasons due to the pressure of expectation or they just get exhausted: ask Nikica Jelavic and David Silva.
A few make the exception, though - and most recently a certain Juan Mata jumps to mind - 12 goals, 6 assists and 18 goals with over 20 assists in his debut and second seasons.
Last season, Premier League entrants surprised many and enjoyed rave reviews. But with a new campaign looming, what are the prospects of these players continuing their impressive displays? Or will they fall victim to the dreaded 'second-season syndrome'?
1. Philippe Coutinho | Liverpool
Undeniably one of the best transfer deals in January, Coutinho arrived from Inter Milan as a promising attacker to help galvanise Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool to a respectable finish. And that he did.
Within his first six months in England, Coutinho has become a key part of Liverpool's play, providing the much needed link-up play with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and finished the season with 12 appearances, three goals and five assists. So much for bedding in period.
Come the new season, Coutinho should continue his development and build on an already impressive start to Premier League life.
2. Eden Hazard | Chelsea
When the Belgian arrived from Lille in the 2012 transfer window, many were quick to suggest that he needed time to adapt to Premier League life.
Hazard had different thoughts. His first three games saw him grab four assists and a debut goal against Newcastle. Over the course of the campaign, Hazard would become an integral part of Chelsea's success on the pitch, scoring vital goals against Manchester United and Sparta Prague, tricking opponents and thrilling fans along the way.
That he was not the extraordinary standout performer for Chelsea like Gareth Bale was for Tottenham should give Chelsea fans confidence and assurance that he still has enough left in him to avoid a second-season burnout.
And under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, Hazard can go on to be a real terror to defenders in his second season, playing from the flanks and giving Mourinho almost what Cristiano Ronaldo gave him in Madrid.
3. Christian Benteke | Aston Villa
Aston Villa depended on Benteke to avoid relegation last season. His 19 goals announced his arrival to the Premier League, and for a striker who was virtually unknown till Villa took an £8m risk on him, he had a debut season to remember.
Going into his second season where much is expected of him, Benteke has disappointed Villa fans, and even non-stakeholders like this writer, by handing in a transfer request. You can hardly blame him; he's made such an impression that Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea have all been credited with interest in his services.
On the basis of last season, Benteke must be full of confidence to keep up the levels reached as he steps forward in the Premier League, with Aston Villa or elsewhere.
4. Michu | Swansea City
Miguel Cuesta, popularly known as Michu, produced for Swansea when it mattered most. His versatility and goals guided Michael Laudrup's side to a Europa League place come next season.
Coming from a lowly La Liga club for £2m that now seems very cheap, Michu adapted quickly to both Swansea and the Premier League's footballing style.
He witnessed a near burnout at the tail end of the season, but with Wilfried Bony now among his team-mates, Michu will have a lot of the goalscoring burden taken off his shoulders, leaving to play without excessive pressure, and at his own pace.
5. Santi Cazorla | Arsenal
Cazorla arrived Arsenal an already established midfielder, capable of holding his own in central or attacking midfield. The Gunners relied heavily on his passing, creativity and goals in the early part of last season, and Cazorla didn't disappoint.
Like his Manchester City Spanish compatriot David Silva however, Cazorla lost his early steam and disappeared more often from Arsenal matches. But he gave his best each time he was on the field. And the verdict is simple: for a first time out in a new league, new surroundings and new football mentality, Cazorla did more than not disappoint.
Too much should not be expected of him in the next campaign, though, but it doesn't look like he will just fade away like Nikica Jelavic and Papiss Cisse did for Everton and Newcastle respectively.
6. Rickie Lambert | Southampton
With Southampton trailing behind Chelsea in the Saints' 2-2 draw against the Blues in January, Mauricio Pochettino responded by introducing Rickie Lambert.
The striker did not disappoint - he equalised in stunning fashion and inspired them to a draw from two goals down. When they were at par on scores with Chelsea in the 2-1 home win against the Blues in March, Rickie Lambert hit a stunning 25-yard free kick that gave his side an important victory.
Such was Lambert's contribution to Southampton in his first season in England, he bailed them out countless number of times: whether from the bench or from the start.
Next season will be one of development for him. And I can hear Southampton fans thinking 'It's Lambert O'clock!', when he lines up a free-kick against Chelsea at 1-0 down.
So, there are the six players I personally want to watch in the new season, their second seasons of life in the Premier League.
If you think better players have been overlooked, please have your say. Will these players keep us licking our lips in anticipation or shaking our heads in pity?
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