Pontus Johnson interview: Brentford can avoid ‘second season syndrome’


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

“Of course, I’ve heard about it,” Pontus-Johnson explains. Standard gameAs the Bees prepare to try and build on an excellent Premier League campaign.

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

“There have been teams that have struggled more in the second season than the first, sure, but that’s not uncommon.”

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

Less likely to be underestimated by more established opponents. A slower pace than a year ago, when the excitement of a play-off final led to that stunning opening night victory over Arsenal. It’s no small feat to welcome each team to the newly-named Gtech Community Stadium for the second time rather than the first.

Johnson, however, is not interested in intangibles. He admits there were doubts going into last season – “How good are we as a team? How good am I as an individual? How good are the others?” – but says every experience gathered along the way to the 13th place gives him reason to believe he can repeat or improve on that first effort.

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

Even the dismal post-New Year’s run in which the bees were briefly molested is framed as a useful learning experience: “If we have that kind of bad spell again this season. fall victim to, so we can say we had that last year and we know we can get out of it.”

Even off the field, Johnson believes there are clear signs it is not about to follow in the footsteps of Ipswich Town in the early noughties or another ill-fated flagship after another season of misery.

Captain Pontus-Johnson is confident Brentford will avoid ‘second season syndrome’.

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“The club has started to invest as a Premier League club,” he says of the summer recruitment drive which saw Brentford break their transfer record twice with exciting youngster Aaron Hickey. And Ken Lewis signed Potter, while also targeting “a bit”. There were more experienced players than we had when we were in the Championship”, meaning former Burnley club captain Ben Mee and ex-Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha both bring extensive experience at the highest level on free transfers.

For the second summer in a row, having previously acted as a selling club, Brentford have also kept all of their best players, with the exception of Christian Eriksen, who was not under contract anyway but accepted the club’s offer. Instead, he joined Manchester United. returned.

“Obviously, we’d love to have him here, but again he looks like a long-term positive for the Denmark international,” says Johnson. “He’s a world-class player who has helped us a lot but he also helped the personal development of other players, other midfielders, such as Vitali [Janelt]Matthias [Jensen] And Christians [Norgaard] greatly increased. They learned a lot by watching him every day.

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

Johnson also sees a coach in Thomas Frank who has always been an admirable man manager but who has “grown a lot in the last two seasons to be able to adapt to tactical situations”.

Now 31, Johnson signed a one-year contract extension last term and has lived up to being an almost ever-present during his long-awaited first Premier League season, with Brentford’s promotion-winning campaign marred by injury. Missed a lot.

The services of Christian Eriksen, the Bees’ leading playmaker, have been lost to Manchester United.

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“I feel in better shape than ever, physically and performance-wise,” says the centre-back, adding that he could see an influx of top talent in the division this summer, particularly Darwin Nunez at Liverpool and Erling Holland at Manchester City.

“I always end up in situations where I play man-versus-man against some of the best players in the world,” he laughs. “I’m looking forward to that, that pairing, especially against some of the big guys who are as big as me so we can have some good fights.”

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