Monday, February 9, 2015

TPL Preview Part 1

With the new TPL season set to start this Friday, here are my thoughts on the first 9 clubs listed alphabetically from A-M.

Army United
Army United are one of a clutch of mid-table sides that can appear half-decent one week and then the following week look awful. Slightly surprisingly, Gary Stevens remains in charge of team affairs. He didn’t do too badly in the second half of last year, yet at the same time he didn’t bring instant success which in Thai football usually results in a contact being terminated through mutual consent. Army have only registered Zdenko Kaprilik from last season’s foreign contingent. A blow was dealt when Raphael Botti was not included for the first leg due to medical reasons. Dutchman Melvin de Leeuw has caught the eye pre-season and he’ll be supported by the pacy Tangeni Shipahu and Kai Hirano. Those three should provide Army with plenty of ammunition and if Mongkol Tossakrai can replicate his form for the Thai national side during the AFF Suzuki Cup, then they should be able to secure their fourth successive top ten finish.

Key Player: Melvin de Leeuw

Last Season: 9th

Bangkok Glass
The Glass Rabbits finally won some domestic silverware after several years of disappointment. Can their FA Cup triumph three months ago be the catalyst for more success, or will BG revert to their inconsistent self? Ricardo Rodriguez comes in to manage the team after an impressive first season in Thai football at Ratchaburi in 2014. New arrivals include English-Australian defender Matt Smith from Brisbane Roar while King Leandro, as he was known by some at Singh Tarua, will add creativity and plenty of theatrical drama in the final third. Personally, I can’t see the Leandro move working as he has to be at the centre of everything. At Tarua he was allowed this luxury. At BG, he won’t necessarily be top of the pecking order and I can’t see this fit working. Yet again, a cup success appears their best route to silverware in 2015. 

Key Player: Darko Tasevski

Last Season: 10th

Bangkok United
They finally found the right man to lead the squad when Mano Polking was appointed midway through last season. From the outside, it seems like a perfect fit as results in the second half of the previous season proved. Polking has raided his former side Suphanburi bringing in four players (Boskovic, Panupong, Putthinan & Kittipong) while at the same time retaining his best players. With a reported B200 million budget, anything less than a top 6 finish must be regarded as a failure.

Key Player: Romain Gasmi

Last Season: 8th

BEC Tero
Tero won their first trophy in the modern Thai football era claiming the League Cup in October 2014. At the recent AFF Cup and Asian U22 tournaments, they provided many members of the successful Thai sides. With youngsters like Messi Jay (Chanathip Songkrasin), Peerapat Notechaiya, Adisorn Promrak, Tanaboon Kesarat and new boy Adisak Kraisorn blossoming, the time is right for Tero to sustain a serious title bid. At the helm this year is Bozidar Bandovic who was briefly head coach at Buriram United last term. The only foreigner kept from last season is Gilbert Koomson. Former Chonburi players Fode Diakite and Ivan Boskovic join Koomson along with Serb Bojan Beljic and experienced Korean Son Dae Ho.

Key Player: Chanathip Songkrasin

Last Season: 3rd

Buriram United
Buriram claimed back-to-back titles despite some insipid performances in 2014. Many Buriram fans would concede that they won the title courtesy of the poor standard of opposition rather than their own convincing playing style. Last season, the squad looked a bit threadbare, particularly in the AFC Champions League. This has been addressed with several promising Thai youngsters recruited to fill the breach. Nonetheless, a few eyebrows were raised when Spaniards David Rochella and Carmelo Gonzalez were released – although Rochella has recently been resigned to feature in the domestic cups. Javier Patino was an injury concern and he has subsequently left to ply his trade in China. New foreign recruits include Brazilian front men Diogo and Gilberto Macena who’ll be backed up by Kayne Vincent formerly of Songkhla United. They will start the season as title favourites again but it could take them awhile to get into their stride as their early league campaign will be coupled with a testing AFC Champions league draw.

Key Player: Andres Tunez

Last Season: 1st

The Hornbills begin their fourth season in the top league. They’ve yet to finish in the top half and only beat the drop by one point last season. During that campaign, goal scoring was a problem so they’ve addressed that issue by signing Michael Murcy from Police United and Brazilian Alex Maiolino. Chanin Sae-Eae was one of the best keepers in the TPL last year at Singh Tarua and they’ve managed to acquire his services after parent club Chonburi let him leave. Head coach Jadet Meelarp returned to Chonburi and he was quickly replaced by Thawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul. Last season he had two unconvincing spells in charge at Police United and sandwiched in-between that he had another unimpressive few weeks at the helm of Bangkok United. A top half finish seems unlikely but they should have enough to avoid relegation.

Key Player: Chanin Sae-Eae

Last Season: 14th

Chiang Rai United
After scrapping a late rally of wins in 2013 to avoid the drop, last season was far more comfortable with a 7th placed finish. It’s been a fairly quiet off season with the most notable arrival being Brazilian striker, Renatinho. He’ll replace the departed Leandro Assumpcao. Last season’s top scorer Renan Marques has signed on for another season to ensure that goals won’t be scarce. With the nucleus of their 2014 squad still intact, they’ll be aspiring to build on the progress made last season. 

Key Player: Pichitpong Choeichiu

Last Season: 7th

The Sharks were within touching distance of claiming the double in 2014 but in the end they walked away empty handed. The Chonburi faithful knew their favourites were punching well above their weight yet it still hurt them to be the bridesmaid once again. The meek FA Cup final loss and an incorrect linesman’s flag at Chainat still irk, while the resignation of Mashahiro Wada and the subsequent appointment of Jadet Meelarp hardly brightened the mood. However, with an attacking trident of Thiago Cunha, Juliano Mineiro and Leandro Assumpcao at their disposal, the side promises plenty of goals. At the back the ever reliable Anderson dos Santos remains as do Suttinan Phukhom and goalkeeper Kosin Sinthaweechai. The full back positions could be a concern as could the lack of a creative midfielder to pull the strings in the middle of the park. Some of the new Thai signings appear to have been randomly selected without any proper scouting which suggests Chonburi will fall short again in 2015. 

Key Player: Thiago Cunha

Last Season: 2nd

Muang Thong United
For the second consecutive season, Muang Thong start a campaign with a coach who appears to be heading for the exit door before Easter. If anything, results and performances have gotten worse rather than better since Dragan Talajic took over in July last year. On the playing front, Teerasil Dangda returns after he predictably (at least to us western cynics) failed to make any impact at Almeria in La Liga. Cleiton Silva struggled to make an impression after he arrived last mid-season and MTU fans will be hopeful that he can’t rediscover the scoring touch he displayed at BEC Tero. Mario Gjurovski still remains despite the fact that it’s gone a bit stale for him while Kim Dong Jin will be joined in defence by former Japanese U23 internationalist Naoki Aoyama. Somewhat bizarrely, Muang Thong have decided not to fill their foreign complement with only four non-Thais registered in their squad. 

Key Player: Teerasil Dangda

Last Season: 5th


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