My review of the 2019 Thai League (T1) season continues with a look at the teams who finished from 5th to 8th.
- Muang Thong United
Predicted position: 3rd
Best player: Heberty Fernandes
It was more of a salvage job than a T1 campaign for Muang Thong United as a disastrous start saw two head coaches try and fail. Relegation specialist Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok seemed immediately out of his depth, quitting after five games before Yoong Jong-hwan also found the task too tough for his liking despite having one of the league’s most talented squads.
The four-time Thai champions made their worst ever start to a season, losing eight of the first 11 matches to leave them sitting in the relgation zone.
Photo credit: Muang Thong United
In came former Buriram United and Chiang Rai United head coach Alexandre Gama to clean up the mess. The serial trophy winner may have started inauspiciously with a 2-0 defeat at Chonburi but he soon turned form around in spectacular style, winning seven of the next eight. With the clubs at the top taking it in turns to drop points, it even looked like Gama could pull off an incredible title victory until a defeat at Port FC ended their surge.
In the final 20 games of a 30-game season, Muang Thong were top of the form table, having won the same number of points as champions Chiang Rai. Had Gama been in charge from the start, we may have seen a very different title race.
- Samut Prakan City
Predicted position: 10th
Best player: Peeradol Chamratsamee
Samut Prakan City were the surprise package of the first half of the season. Having taken over the licence of Pattaya United and moved the club closer to Bangkok, it was effectively a new club but they did have the core of a decent Pattaya squad to call upon.
Still, no one expected them to be among the title contenders as the season reached the halfway stage, as the likes of Peeradol Chamratsamee, Jaroensak Wongkorn, Teeraphol Yoryoei and Noppol Phonkam forged an excellent team unit. Striker Ibson Melo impressed in attack, while Aris Zarifovic was proving an astute signing at centre-back.
Photo credit: Samut Prakan City
But the loss of midfield general Peeradol precipitated a collapse in form just after the halfway point of the season. Five defeats in six games – three by three-goal margins – ensured that Samut Prakan would not stay in contention for the title beyond Matchday 20.
Form over the final 10 matches would actually have them in the bottom three – above only PTT Rayong and Chainat, highlighting just how significant the dropoff in form was. Nevertheless, a sixth-place finish was more than anyone could have hoped for at the start of the year and it will be tough to emulate that in 2020.
Predicted finish: 6th
Best player: Sintaweechai Hathairattanakool
It was another season of inconsistent form from the Sharks, never winning more than two on the trot, while their longest losing streak was three.
The club known for its academy and the opportunities it gives young players began to resemble more of a retirement home when there was an influx of players in their mid to late thirties. 37-year-old goalkeeper Sintaweechai Hathairattanakool returned to his spiritual home before a line of veterans followed in the shape of Datsakorn Thonglao (35), Wittaya Madlam (34), Teerathep Winothai (34) and Mongkok Namnuad (34).
Photo credit: Chonburi FC
It was a curious recruitment policy in a year in which their most promising youngster – Worachit Kanitsribampen – failed to build on an impressive 2018 as he was in and out of the side. However, 20-year-old centre-back Kritsada Kaman grew in stature and was one of the more regular starters in a side that saw a lot of chopping and changing of personnel.
Chonburi at least improved on last year’s 9th place but they remain far from the heights of the years 2007-2014 when they never finished outside the Top Three.
Predicted finish: 9th
Best player: Steeven Langil
The drama at Ratchaburi was somewhat familiar as a new head coach quit before the season had even started. Manuel Marquez Roca suggested he had received a better offer and was on his way, leaving the inexperienced Farncesc D’Asis Bosch in charge.
It wasn’t long before the Spaniard was packing his bags to be replaced by AC Milan legend Marco Simone, whose management career had been modest at best.
Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC
A squad possessing the attacking flair of Steeven Langil and Yannick Boli could be fun to watch but form was erratic until the midyear arrivals of Lossemy Karaboue and Yoo Jun-soo added some steel to the team.
The popular Simone’s departure was met with disappointment but form improved. The Dragons lost just three of their final 15 T1 matches and ended the season as the league’s fifth top scorers, while just four teams conceded more goals.
If they can hold on to their top foreign players and tighten up at the back, Ratchaburi could be a more formidable force in 2020.