With the Thai League (T1) suspended for a minimum of six weeks just four games in the 2020 season, there is an opportunity for some teams to take stock and refocus, while others will be frustrated by the break.
Having initially announced a decision to play this month’s matches behind closed doors, the Thai League were forced to backtrack and postpone all games until April 18th. Here is a look at the winners and losers from the decision to suspend the league due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.
- Buriram United
It was widely expected that Buriram United would come back stronger after a disappointing and trophyless 2019.
But it has looked like the same Buriram and possibly worse. They have continued with two holding midfielders, though Jung Jae-yong looks a downgrade on Hajime Hosogai, while the scouting team looked to have failed again in their attempts to uncover the next Frank Acheampong, Carmelo Gonzalez, Javier Patino, Diogo Luis Santo or even Gilberto Macena, Jaja Coelho or Edgar Silva.
Bozidar Bandovic will hope that the break allows Ricardo Bueno and Bernardo Cuesta to sharpen up and prepare to go again. If they can’t do that, then surely it’s time for a re-evaluation of the stubborn and absurd refusal to buy proven foreign strikers from other Thai clubs.
2. Chiang Rai United
Since the euphoria of winning the T1 title in dramatic style, it hasn’t taken long for the atmosphere around the club to turn sour. The appointment of Masami Taki as head coach smacked of a lack of ambition/ finances, as did the loss of William Henrique to be replaced by the (so far) ineffective Mailson.
The team has struggled on the pitch, suffering two 1-0 AFC Champions League defeats, while falling seven points off the T1 pace after a 4-1 defeat at Bangkok United.
The swagger of the pre-season Champions Cup win over Port FC suggested business as usual, but the capitulation against Bangkok United was a sure sign that all is not well. The break may give Ekanit Panya the time he needs to recover full fitness, while maybe even Mailson will return a different player.
3. Muang Thong United
It was always going to be difficult to find the right blend at Muang Thong given the departures of so many first team regulars. Defeats in the first two games were not surprising even if there were some promising signs.
Consecutive wins away to Rayong and at home to Chonburi are papering over the cracks given all three goals at Rayong came through calamitous goalkeeping errors, while victory over Chonburi was extremely fortuitous.
The break may give time for the likes of Adisorn Promrak and Daisuke Sato to recover from injuries while also giving some young players a breather after being thrown in the deep end.
4. Prachuap FC
It has been a hugely disappointing start to the season for a club that appeared to be going places, following a season in which they won their first major trophy.
The arrivals of William and Bruno Mezenga suggested a stronger attack but they have netted only two goals between them as Prachuap have taken just one point to date.
Defeat at Bangkok United may have been expected but losing at Suphanburi and taking one point from home matches against BG Pathum United and Sukhothai is not an impressive record.
They have had a fair turnover in their squad so they now have time to work on making it work.
- Bangkok United
Notoriously slow starters, Bangkok United flew out of the traps this year, rattling off four wins out of four while playing within themselves. They have relied on late goals to win three of their matches, demonstrating a resilience that wasn’t always in evidence last year.
The addition of Hajime Hosogai has looked inspired, while striker Brenner has started to look the part. Having made few additions to the squad in the close season, Mano Polking’s side seem to have benefited from greater continuity than their opponents.
Disrupting the positive momentum is the last thing they need.
The Dragons seem to have put the chaos of the last two years behind them, emulating Bangkok United by taking 12 points from four games. With a strong frontline firing on all cylinders, Ratchaburi have defied expectations by reaching 12 points – a tally it took 11 matches to achieve last year.
Four matches into the 2019 campaign, the Dragons were getting rid of yet another head coach. The contrast in 2020 couldn’t be greater and it is a pity that they don’t have the opportunity to keep up the good work.
3. BG Pathum United
BG have returned to the top tier in no mood to entertain the possibility of another relegation, following their shocking fall from grace in 2018.
Ten points from four matches is an excellent return and the form of Thitipan Puangchan shows how valuable he is to the team. Success so far has been built from the back. The only goal they have conceded was a penalty against Muang Thong.
They have had a relatively kind run of fixtures but they have done enough to suggest that they will be aiming at a top-half finish rather than another relegation battle.
After surviving relegation due to the demise of PTT Rayong, Suphanburi overhauled their squad without necessarily improving the quality. Nevertheless, they have already achieved something that they failed to do in the whole of 2019 – they have won consecutive matches.
The War Elephant have kept things tight at the back, and one-time Muang Thong United starlet Kasidech Wettayawong seems to be enjoying something of a career renaissance alongside Eliandro in attack.
They should have been at home to struggling Nakhon Ratchasima this weekend and would have been favourites to make it three T1 wins in succession. When was the last time they managed that?