Friday, August 21, 2015

TPL 2015 - Chapter 3

At the end of Chapter 2, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Buriram United were going to run away with the championship and that TOT, Siam Navy and Saraburi were all odds-on to be demoted. These sides still fill the same berths but after the latest burst of TPL fixtures, the final positions of 2015 appear far from done and dusted.

Title Race

Buriram still remain unbeaten yet five draws in the latest sequence of eleven games has seen them pegged back by their challengers. Their six triumphs have all been by one goal and some of these performances have been far from convincing. Up to a fortnight ago, it seemed that there could be as many as four clubs in the title shake-up. Recent results though have filtered that down to a scrap between Buriram and Muangthong United. Arguably Bangkok Glass, Chonburi and Bangkok United can still be considered as challengers, but it would be a real turn up for the books if any of this trio were to be crowned champions come December.

A 2-1 loss to Buriram on Wednesday evening leaves Chonburi a mountain to climb and a sluggish start to the season appears to have hampered them again. Bangkok Glass and Bangkok United are both well coached and hard working sides, but they just appear to be lacking a couple of players to challenge the top 2.

The Thunder Castle top the table with 47 points with Muangthong three points behind them having played a game less. Since Muangthong's defeat to Chonburi at the end of June, they've collected 20 points from a possible 24 to move onto the shoulder of the league leaders. In this time they've found the net 19 times yet conceded only 4. The Nonthaburi side have the momentum and many of their best players seem to be hitting form at the right time.

Relegation Fight

At this moment, it seems it's any three from five to take the drop. However a couple of defeats for either Chainat or Sisaket would leave them nervously looking over their shoulders.

TOT, Navy and Saraburi have been stuck in the mire at the bottom since virtually Day 1. The three sides haven't been cut adrift yet and in recent weeks there has been some promising signs that at least one of them could survive. The arrival of Sadney Urikhob has injected some pace into the Saraburi attack and the young African struck twice in his first two matches. Navy acquired the services of the bustling Rodrigo Vergilio and the Brazilian has netted four times already this month. TOT endured a wretched run towards the end of Leg 1 but they've only lost once in four outings since new blood arrived for the second half of the season.

The two other sides in danger of falling through the trap door are BEC Tero and Port. Nobody expected the Fire Dragons to be in this position particularly after many of their youngsters were the backbone of the successful Thailand SEA Games squad. Tero's last win was on 29th April which was 13 games ago. To a lesser extent, heavy investment in the Port side had many thinking that they'd pull away from danger once their new recruits arrived for the run in. That hasn't been the case as performances have barely improved and the chopping and changing of coaches has had a negative effect on the team rather than a positive one. BEC Tero should have enough quality to survive so that would leave Port as the most likely candidate for the dropping into the bottom three should any of Navy, Saraburi or TOT string a run of results together.

Counting Down the Clock

Out of the remaining six sides that I haven't mentioned, Ratchaburi look the best bet to finish at the front of the chasing pack. The 2014 TPL Golden Boot winner Heberty has continued to find the back of net and his target will be to overhaul Diogo and top the goal scoring chart once again.
Early pace setters Army have ran out of steam and they've been slipping down the table. Since the first five games, they've been averaging one point per game and many Army fans have voted with their feet due to the dour, defensive tactics employed by coach Issara Sritaro. Rumours are rife that his days in charge are numbered at the Home of Gentlemen.
Whilst on the subject of managerial departures, the TPL has waved goodbye to a couple of Brazilian coaches. The first to go was Sergio Farias at Suphanburi. After an impressive start to the campaign, Suphanburi plummeted mid-season with four consecutive 1-0 losses. Inevitably it was only a matter of time until Farius departed and Suphanburi have gone back to their lower league roots reappointing Worawoot Srimaka in a caretaker role. Slightly more surprising was the dismissal of Teco at Osotspa. The club has rebranded itself and I guess the owners want to bring in their own man before they make the imminent move out into the sticks in Samut Prakan. Osotspa won 4, lost 4 and drew 3 in the latest run of games and realistically that's a reasonable expectation for a club with few fans and a modest budget.
In the first few weeks, Chiang Rai and Nakhon Ratchasima failed to gather any momentum and were at the wrong end of the table. However, both clubs are strong at home and this has pulled them into mid-table. The target now for the duo will be to finish the year in the top half of the standings.