Pontus Jansson interview: Brentford can avoid ­’second-season syndrome’



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t is typically Brentford that, with a conviction inspired by numbers, the club’s captain is not buying into ­‘second-season syndrome’.

“Of course, I’ve heard about it,” Pontus Jansson tells Standard Sport, as the Bees prepare to try to build on a fine maiden Premier League campaign.

“But I read an interesting article about it, someone writing about the last six, seven, eight years in the Premier League and it wasn’t as relevant as people talk about — it’s not as true as people think.

“There have been teams that have struggled more in the second season than the first, of course, but it’s not a common thing.”

Much of the fear that the west Londoners, playing only their second top flight season since 1947, may slip into that category is based on intangibles.

Less chance of being underestimated by more established opponents. Less momentum than a year ago, when the euphoria of play-off final success rolled on to that glorious opening night victory over Arsenal. Less of a buzz welcoming each team to the newly renamed Gtech Community Stadium for the second, rather than first time, even if only slightly so.

Jansson, however, is not interested in intangibles. He admits that going into last season there were doubts — “How good are we as a team? How good am I as an individual? How good are the others?” — but says every experience collected en route to a 13th-place finish offers reason to believe they can repeat or improve upon that debut effort.

“We came into the season with a maximum of like 10 Premier League games between us,” he points out. “Now we have hundreds. That makes a difference. We’re more confident as a group. We know what to expect and what to expect from each other.”

Even the dismal post-New Year run that briefly had the Bees flirting with relegation is chalked up as a helpful learning experience: “If we go into that kind of bad spell again this season, we can say that we had it last year and we know we can get out of it.”

Off the pitch, too, Jansson believes there are clear signs this is not a side about to follow in the footsteps of early-noughties Ipswich Town or any other unfortunate flagbearer for second-season affliction since.

Captain Pontus Jansson is confident that Brentford will avoid ‘second-season syndrome’

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“The club has started to invest as a Premier League club,” he says of a summer recruitment drive that has led to Brentford breaking their transfer record twice to sign exciting youngsters Aaron Hickey and Keane Lewis-Potter, while also targeting “a little bit more experienced players than we did when we were in the Championship”, namely former Burnley club captain Ben Mee and ex-Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, both of whom bring vast top-level experience on free transfers.

For the second summer in a row, having previously operated as a selling club, Brentford have also kept all of their best players, the exception being Christian Eriksen, who was not under contract anyway but has joined Manchester United rather than take up the club’s offer of a return.

“Obviously, we’d rather have him here,” says Jansson, but again he sees a lasting positive in having had the Danish international at all. “He’s a world-class player who helped us a lot but he also helped other players in their ­personal development. Other ­midfielders, like Vitaly [Janelt], Mathias [Jensen] and Christian [Norgaard] stepped up massively. They learned a lot just watching him every day.”

We’re more confident as a group. We know what to expect and what to expect from each other

Jansson also sees a coach in Thomas Frank who has always been a lauded man-manager but who “grew a lot in the last couple of seasons to be able to adapt to tactical situations”.

Now 31, Jansson signed a one-year contract extension last term and was relived to be almost ever-present throughout his long-awaited first Premier League season, having missed much of Brentford’s promotion-winning campaign through injury.

The Bees lost the services of top playmaker Christian Eriksen to Manchester United

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“I feel in better form than ever, physically and performance-wise as well,” the centre-back says, and he may well have to be given the influx of striking talent to the division this summer, most notably Darwin Nunez at Liverpool and Erling Haaland at Manchester City.

“I’m always ending up in situations where I play man-vs-man against some of the best players in the world,” he laughs. “I’m looking forward to it, those duels, especially against some of those big guys who are as big as me so we can have some nice battles.”

Brentford have already mixed it with the big boys once. The challenge now is to do it all over again.

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