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Despite hoovering up nucleus of Thai national team, wheels are falling off Kirins

FOOTBALL: Crisis? What crisis, you may ask.


Bangkok Post

Thursday 25 May 2017, 10:53AM

Muang Thong’s Theerathon Bunmathan scores against Ubon UMT from the penalty spot. Photo: PR
Muang Thong’s Theerathon Bunmathan scores against Ubon UMT from the penalty spot. Photo: PR

League leaders. Check.

In the last 16 of Asia’s premier club competition for the first-time ever, including a win over Japanese champions Kashima Antlers. Check.

One of the most exciting talents to come out of Thailand, indeed Southeast Asia, for years (Chanathip Songkrasin). Check.

But make no mistake, the wheels have started to fall off SCG Muang Thong United’s title defence.

Despite hoovering up the nucleus of the Thai national team from back to front, they have fallen to three straight defeats, all against newly promoted teams – Thai Honda, Port and Ubon UMT.

Their lead at the top is now just on goal difference ahead of bitter rivals Buriram United. Indeed, they would have finished second if the season had ended today due to their inferior head-to-head record against the Thunder Castle.

Last Saturday’s (May 20) 3-2 loss at home to Ubon UMT, who have themselves slipped down the league following their rollicking start, was particularly shocking.

The Kirins were all at sea at the back and looked toothless going forward – lots of possession with little end product.

Thailand international Theerathon Bunmathan scored a penalty against Ubon UMT but his embarrassing temper tantrum at the final whistle summed up their frustration.

But when you look a little bit deeper, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

Firstly, there are their injuries. They’ve lost star striker Xisco Jimenez, the former Newcastle United man, who was their main source of goals.

There isn’t really an adequate replacement until former Ratchaburi hotshot Heberty Fernandes becomes available in the second half of the season.

Key midfielder Sarach Yooyen’s long-term absence has clearly hurt them. He makes the side tick.

Further, their outstanding AFC Champions League campaign – and outstanding it has been (they played the first leg of their last 16 game against Kawasaki Frontale on Tuesday night (May 23) – has badly exposed the depth of their squad.

Manager Totchtawan Sripan has tried to rotate, but it has backfired. Former anonymous squad men have been forced to take the step up.

The squad have struggled to adapt their tactics between games in Thailand and on the continent.

Thai League teams have simply sat back and attacked them on the break – what Muang Thong do to sides in Asia.

To give you an idea about how thin their squad look, they’ve been playing wideman Mongkol Tossakrai – often a substitute for relegated Army United last term let’s not forget – up front. The opposition has clearly not been scared.

But while the Kirins have imploded, their rivals have failed to take full advantage.

Buriram have squandered silly points – last Sunday’s (May 21) draw at Police Tero a case in point.

Big spending Chiang Rai United are third, but seem to lack the consistency for a title push.

Muang Thong are still favourites to take back-to-back titles, but they will be losing star man Chanathip to Japan in the second leg of the season.

They need to get their chequebook out – they’ve been linked with Ubon UMT’s impressive Thailand striker Sirod Chatthong – and their house in order.

It was only a month or so ago that Totchtawan was being talked about as the next boss of the Thai national team.

He still has substantial credit in the bag, but has yet to sign a new contract with the Kirins – and the club’s owners may be having second thoughts.

Muang Thong are far from the worst offenders, but Thai League owners are not known for their patience in standing by coaches in rough times.

Because they have to travel to Kawasaki next week, their match against Chiang Rai this weekend has been postponed to June 2 when the Kirins will try to stop the rot on the domestic front.

Read original story here.



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