Thaileague 1, 2020, preview. Team 5-8

Now for the ones who will be looking towards the highest region of the table with dreamy eyes, and should be positive about what the 2020 season may bring, but who I still predict will fall short of the big boys at the top. Teams 5-8:

5. PT Prachuap

Now an established T1-side, following a fantastic debut season but struggling somewhat for large parts of the second one after losing their two foreign attacking aces to league rivals and failing to find proper replacements. This window, the club has been very active, possibly building the best ASEAN contingent in the country, bringing in a very solid AFC player in former Buriram and Ratchaburi midfielder Yoo Jun-soo and making the one of the most surprising move of them all in signing William Henrique from reigning champions Chiangrai. If the Brazilian striker Bruno Mazenga, who was heavily linked with Buriram in the fall, turns out to produce what his record suggest he’s capable of, all the pieces are there to be the team truly challenging to break into the top four. Just like Trat, the geographical location of the southernmost team in T1 also brings a logistical advantage that makes for a particularly prominent home advantage.

Player to watch: William Henrique

 

6. Ratchaburi Mitr Pohl

Climbed a fair bit in the table from 2018 to finish in the top half in 2019 and nearly even bringing home some silverware but losing the FA Cup-final after some questionable VAR involvement. The managerial madness that is the Ratburi status quo has started early this year, with supposed head coach, the would be first female to hold that position in T1 Nuengruthai Srathongvian, nowhere to be found during pre-season, but at least there’s enough consistency in the squad, that’s pretty much intact with all three foreign attackers, including the star performer Steeven Langil, still at the club, while both dept and quality has been added to try and improve even further this year.

Player to watch: Steeven Langil

 

7. Muangthong United

Muangthong has dropped numerous important pieces of their puzzle, allegedly due to some financial strain at their main backers, SCG, including but not limited to: Hebery Fernandes, Bruno Gallo and Teersail Dangda. Gambling on replacements like Willian Popp and Sardor Mirzaev, it’s up to manager Alexandre Gama, who already saved the club from an embarrassing relegation battle in his first half season in charge, to do what he does best, create a collective of players who will do anything to get something from every game. But there’s little that speaks in favour of this season being about more than rebuilding to come back stronger in the future.

Player to watch: Sardor Mirzaev

 

8. Chonburi FC

A very poor start to 2019 prompted Chonburi to act by a change in leadership that saw them leave the relegation zone comfortably behind. To build on this, the club has resorted to short term planning by bringing in a collection of ageing high profile T1 players. However, the likes of Teerathep Winothai and Dragan Boskovic may well have just enough dry powder left for one last hoorah and be the leaders that the younger talents at the club need and what they have is enough to aim for a mid-table finish.

Player to watch: Dragan Boskovic

Inför Thaileague 1, 2020. Lag 9-12

Med ett gäng klubbar som satsat hårt för att klättra högre upp så är det oundvikligt att några misslyckas. Den nedre delen av tabellens mitt är där drömmar dör. Jag ger er plats 9-12:

9. Samut Prakan CIty

Var länge den stora positiva överraskningen under sin första säsong någonsin efter att ha tagit över Pattaya Uniteds licens att spela i T1 men ett tränarbyte och olyckliga skador i mitten av säsongen ledde till att man började prestera ungefär som förväntat. Jaroensak Wonggorn kommer säkerligen få utstå mycket hårdare bevakning än tidigare nu när försvararna utan tvekan vet vem han är, men han kommer åtminstone inte få axla hela det kreativa ansvaret eftersom Ibson Melo, som överraskande flyttat till Sukhothai, ersatts med Pedro Júnior, vars insatser i Buriram visserligen var ojämna men stundom skvallrade om en spelare av väldigt hög kaliber.

Håll ett öga på: Pedro Júnior

 

10. BG Pathum United

Precis som förväntat så studsade BG snabbt och enkelt tillbaka upp efter sin chockdegradering till T2 2018. De defensiva förstärkningarna, speciellt då gratisvärvningen av Victor Cardozo, betyder säkerligen att laget kommer svåra att bryta ner även för de bästa i serien, men det finns en hel del osäkerhet kring anfallet, då den förväntade målskytten Barros Tardeli saknar erfarenhet från T1. Mittfältet bjuder också på vissa frågetecken, när det lär vara ganska beroende av Thitipan Puangchan, som visserligen är den allra bästa på sin position i Thailand, men som nekades att stanna i J.League mot sin uttalade önskan. Spelare som tvingas kvar i en klubb mot sin vilja presterar sällan på topp och det finns en överhängande risk att förväntningarna på återkomsten i högsta serien inte kommer att upfyllas.

Håll ett öga på: Thitipan Puangchan

 

11. Sukhothai FC

Efter en säsong bestående till hälften av oavgjorda resultat måste Sukhothai hitta ett sätt att avgöra matcher utan att offra den defensiva balansen. Lättare sagt än gjort, men man har ändå lyckats med ett par riktigt lovande offensiva värvningar. Inte bara i form av en årets potentiella inhemska genombrottsspelare, Pongpat Liaorungruengkit, utan även Ibson Melo, med en enastående fin säsong i Samut Prakan bakom sig, och Evandro Paulista, med en gedigen bakgrund i östasiatisk fotboll, som gör en av ligans absolut bästa under senare år, John Baggio, sällskap i anfallet. Det kan dock gå lite hursomhelst då offensiven tidigare handlat helt om Baggio och även om kaptenen inte lär ha några problem att dela uppmärksamheten för lagets bästa så är även Ibson Melo en spelare som vill ha bollen mest hela tiden och att kombinera två spelare av den typen leder gärna till att ingen av dem uppfyller hela sin potential. Det ser föga troligt ut att Sukhothai kommer kunna känna sig säkra på nytt kontrakt innan sluttampen i år heller.

Håll ett öga på: Pongpat Liaorungruengkit

 

12. Nakhon Ratchasima FC

2019 var en besvikelse och slutade i ett tränarbyte, där Teerasak Po-on tagit över ansvaret efter sina fina resultat i numera nedlagda PTT Rayong. Den nya tränaren har redan haft några månader på sig att presentera sina idéer för spelarna och kommer säkert få nog med tid att se dessa bära frukt. Truppen är dock i stort sett densamma, med Dennis Murillo som ersättare till Bernard Henry som den mest iögonfallande förändringen, och de kan skaka om vilket motstånd som helst i T1, speciellt inför sin fanatiska hemmapublik, men stabiliteten som krävs för att hålla ett bekvämt avstånd till nedflyttningsplatserna kommer bli svår att bygga tillräckligt fort i den hårda konkurrens som väntar.

Håll ett öga på: Amadou Ouattara

Thaileague 1, 2020, preview. Team 9-12

As many teams have invested heavily to climb higher up the table, some must fail. The lower middle region of the table is where dreams will fizzle out and die. I give you, places 9-12:

9. Samut Prakan City

Was long the big positive surprise in their first season in existence after taking over Pattaya United’s license to join T1. However, a managerial change and heavy injuries halfway through 2019 saw them produce results more in line with what was expected beforehand. Jaroensak Wonggorn will be guarded much more closely now that the defenders definitely knows about him but he will not have to shoulder all of the creative responsibility, as Ibson Melo’s surprise move to Sukhothai has been properly addressed with the signing of Pedro Júnior, whose performances at Buriram may have been inconsistent but at times of the highest quality.

Player to watch: Pedro Júnior

 

10. BG Pathum United

As expected, BG had no trouble comfortably bouncing back up after the shocking relegation to T2 in 2018. The defensive signings, especially picking up free agent Victor Cardozo, should make them a very tough nut to crack for any side in T1, but there is considerable uncertainty about the attacking prowess, with the supposed top scorer Barros Tardeli lacking T1 experience. Also, the midfield will rely much on the performances of Thitipan Puangchan and, even though he is the very best Thai player in his position, he was denied the opportunity to stay in the J.League against his expressed wishes, and players who are forced to stay when they want to leave rarely put in their best performances. There is a very high possibility that the expectations will not at all be met in the first year back in the top flite.

Player to watch: Thitipan Puangchan

 

11. Sukhothai FC

  1. Sukhothai FC

Following a season defined by draws, Sukhothai need find a way to decide games without sacrificing their defensive balance. Easier said than done, but the recruitment has seen a couple of very promising attacking additions to the squad. Not only a potential domestic breakthrough player of the season in attacking midfielder Pongpat Liaorungruengkit but Ibson Mel, coming from a superb season at Samut Prakan, and Evandro Paulista, with solid experience from East Asian football, will be joining forces with one of T1s truly outstanding performers in recent years, John Baggio, in the front line. This could break either way as the offense has been all about Baggio, and while the skipper will have no problem with sharing the spotlight for the good of the team, Ibson Melo is also a player who wants to see a lot of the ball and combining two players like often results in neither playing to their full potential. It’s unlikely that Sukhothai will be safe from relegation until late in the year this time around as well.

Player to watch: Pongpat Liaorungruengkit

 

12. Nakhon Ratchasima FC

The disappointing 2019 ended with a managerial change, seeing Teerasak Po-on take charge following his impressive work at now disbanded PTT Rayong. The new boss has already had the full extent of the off-season to implement his ideas and will likely be given ample time to see them bear fruit, but the players available has remained pretty much the same, with Bernard Henry making room for Dennis Murillo as the most eye-catching altering of the squad, and they can produce an upset against any team in T1, especially in front of their passionate home fans, but the kind of solidity needed to stay comfortably clear of the relegation zone will be hard to create quickly enough in the tough competition they face.

Player to watch: Amadou Ouattara

Thaileague 1, 2020, preview. Team 13-16

The long mind numbingly dull wait is over and the first week of T1, 2020, is finally upon us. The customary promotion/relegation chaos is over, as is the equally chaotic exercise known as the Thai transfer window. Hence, its time for a look at this year’s participants and figure out what we may expect from them in terms of performance. Starting with the bottom four:

13. Trat FC

A very impressive first year in the top flite produced a mid-table finish, but the team suffered heavy losses, especially in the form of T1 top-scorer Lonsana Doumbouya who moved to the Chinese second division, and risk suffering a hard case of second season syndrome. Still, what they haven’t lost is the advantage of a geographical location that usually keeps big away followings from turning up and “Prince” Adefola Durosinmi, they also brought in a solid replacement for Doumbouya in the form of Ricardo Santos, along with some interesting ASEAN names, which should still be enough to avoid relegation, if only just.

Player to watch: Prince Fola

 

14. Police Tero FC

First runners up in T2 last year, has kept a solid core of players and added some decent names to it. Will not go quietly in what is looking like it will be a fierce relegation battle but I still see them dropping right back down in the end.

Player to watch: Arthit Boondjinda

 

15. Suphanburi FC

Finished in the relegation zone last year but was given a wildcard to stay in T1 after PTT Rayong dropped out. The big signings didn’t turn out too well and the strategy during this window has involved making good use of the ASEAN-quota. If the pieces turn out to fit it could be all well and good but will struggle to remain in the top flite this time around.

Player to watch: Felipe Amorim

 

16. Rayong FC

Snatched the final promotion spot from T2, despite suffering a 7-0 beating at Police Tero on the final day of the 2019 campaign, after Sisaket only almost managed to parry their 12 point reduction but in the end came up 2 short of a top three finish. Rayong, in a sense, replaces local rivals PTT, who terminated senior team operations and withdrew from T1 at the end of 2019. The outlook on promotion is gloomier than that of PTT last year. Some pretty underwhelming transfer activity, bringing in a new frontline, with ageing T1 journeyman Bireme Diouf joining as the marquee signing from Trat and giving AFC Ajax academy graduate Leandro Resida a second go at the Thai League following his not too impressive spell at Chainat. Can basically just hope to put up a good fight against relegation.

Player to watch: Leandro Resida