Leeds Looking to Avoid ‘Second Season Syndrome’

Taking a look back at Premier League history, there are a number of examples of the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’.

Having secured a ninth-place finish in their first season back in the top flight for 16 years, Leeds United are working hard to make sure their name is not added to the list.

Whites Impress on Premier League Return

After so many years away from the top table of English football, there was plenty of attention on how Marcelo Bielsa’s side would fare on their return to the Premier League. Leeds, who are 9/1 in the football betting to be relegated this season, did not disappoint as their attacking brand of football saw them secure a top-half finish. None of the ‘Big Six’ teams in the division earned league wins at Elland Road in the 2020-21 campaign, while Leeds’ highlight of the season was a 2-1 victory with 10-men at Manchester City.

Not one to get too carried away with successes, Bielsa is now tasked with trying to guide Leeds through a second season in the top flight. As history has shown, this can be much tougher than many expect.

Blades Offer Fresh Example

Fellow Yorkshire outfit Sheffield United offer up the most recent example of second season syndrome, as the Blades now look ahead to a campaign in the Championship. Like Leeds last term, manager Chris Wilder took his side to ninth place in the 2019-20 Premier League season. Success was built on a solid defence and impressive organisation and the Blades earned plenty of plaudits for their efforts, as they just missed out on securing European football.

Wilder was hoping to build on the foundations of that campaign, but his side went on to win just one of their first 19 games of the 2020-21 season. Wilder could not hold on to his position at Bramall Lane and now the South Yorkshire outfit have the task of trying to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Tractor Boys Top the List

Ipswich Town offer arguably the most notorious example of second season syndrome the Premier League has witnessed since its inception in 1992. After promotion via the playoff final, the Tractor Boys found themselves back in the Premier League for the 2000-01 season. Up as high as third at one stage, manager George Burley saw his side earn UEFA Cup football after a fifth-place finish.

Second season syndrome then hit Ipswich, as they went on to win just one of their first 18 league games of the 2001-02 campaign. There was a revival midway through the season, but another dip in form saw them dragged back into the relegation zone, and a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on the final day saw them condemned to the second tier.

The likes of Birmingham City, Reading and Wigan Athletic also have their own tales of woe in the Premier League. Leeds are working hard in preseason to make sure they don’t add their name to second season syndrome victims. With fresh faces arriving over the summer, and Bielsa at the helm, Whites supporters will be hopeful Leeds can avoid the trappings of the past.

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