Time flies, the fourth and final part of the 2019 T1 review is already upon us. A title race defined by everyone seemingly doing what they could to avoid coming out on top ended in a massive upset, while the other three were the prime suspects ahead of the season.
Failed to utilize what looked like a great transfer strategy and build on their very good 2018. The performances were not as solid and the tactical foundation they could earlier rely so much was not at all as obvious as previously, illustrated by the shaky nature of the season with considerable ups and downs in form along the way, and their disciplinary problems got even bigger than they were in the year before. Offensively the team became too reliant on the individual performances of Nelson Bonilla and Vander Luiz, even though it performed better overall when one or both of those players were unavailable. A year they will try to put behind themselves as quickly as possible.
Spent a lot of money before the season, as is becoming customary, yet only adding a couple of potential starters and keeping the core of players from 2018. Got off to a good start but struggled against the other title contenders and also dropped a significant amount of points in supposedly easy games. 2 points from 6 mid-season games saw them fall behind their rivals which prompted the club to change their manager and again spend big in the transfer market. A subsequent good run of form saw them claw their way back into the race but ultimately, it cost them any real chance they had at the title. However, a second consecutive third place finish, along with an end to a decade long title draught via an FA Cup-title that secured a place in the ACL playoffs, made the season a successful one.
Diogo Luis Santo moved to Malaysian JDT, and took Burirams dominance with him. The club tried several new foreign attackers over the course of the season and no one worked out. Even after a start of 10 unbeaten games, it was glaringly obvious that the reigning champions was nowhere near the force they used to be. A few extremely unexpected defeats and a number of unnecessary draws at any stage where it looked like Buriram would put some distance between themselves and their competitors, but with an impressive and promising group of Thai players, Buriram still found themselves travelling to face an already relegated Chiangmai FC as league leaders on the last day of the campaign. It took 53 minutes to break the deadlock, and then it looked like they would still edge it to regain the trophy, but a late equaliser changed everything and Buriram United meant Chiangrai United snuck past them ended up celebrating their 10-year anniversary without a single piece of silverware to show for it. A massive disappointment to chairman Newin who had already requested for the FA to hand out the league trophy back home in Isaan.
What to say about Chiangrai United? Knowing the club had won 3 cup titles (2 FA, 1 League Cup) in the previous two seasons, maybe it shouldn’t have been this much of surprise that it is a competitive side. However, cups and leagues are very different things and no one expected this. It is clearly a result of very successful recruitment over a long period of time, but as mentioned before, not an uncontroversial win, given the club had an effective B-team in the same league in the form of Chiangmai FC, that also happened to snatch the last round draw against Buriram that meant Chiangrai could win it all. Ekanit Panya benefitted massively from his loan spell at Chiangmai and was recalled in mid-season to inject the extra bit of quality needed to see it through. With four games to go, Chiangrai was two points clear at the top of the table, but consecutive draws mean they appeared to have squandered the opportunity and had to rely on Buriram making another mess of things on closing night. It all worked out and Chiangrai broke the dominance of Buriram and Muanghtong United to become only the third club to become champions of Thailand in ten years.