In the 2016 season, Muangthong United dominated Thai football winning the Thai League and Thai League Cup (shared with Buriram United after the cancellation of the tournament). They had their first Thai manager in seven years in Totchtawan Sripan, signed Thai international Theerathon Bunmathan from rivals Buriram United for a record transfer fee and had a squad littered with Thai internationals. It was looking like the Nonthuburi based club was going to dominate the Thai league for years to come.
Within four years Muangthong United would be languishing at the bottom of the table jointly with Suphanburi FC with seven games gone in the 2019 Thai League season. Manager Totchtawan Sripan has resigned leaving Muangthong United in turmoil.
So where did it all go wrong?
Loss of Goalscorer
Followers of Thai football will be fully aware that the majority of teams in the league rely heavily on foreign striker to score the majority of their goals. Muangthong United were no different as they heavily relied on 27 goal striker Cleiton Silvavon route to wining the title. Unfortunately for Muangthong, the Brazilians form in the Thai League drew admirers from abroad, most notably from Shanghai Shenxin FC. It was soon clear that the riches of the Chinese Super League proved too much for Cleiton Silva to turn down, resulting in Muangthong United losing the leagues top scorer. The following season saw Heberty be introduced as the heir to Cleiton Silva. However Herbert was not a like for like replacement as he preferred to play out wide rather than be a fox in the box. The inability for Muangthong United to find a replacement goalscorer would haunt the clear for seasons to come.
Image from Football Tribe
Exodus of Thai internationals
Due to the success of the club, many international players simply outgrew the league and left new pastures abroad. The most notable of these is Chanathip Songkrasin who made his way to Japan to play for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. Chanathip in a way paved the way for others and was soon followed to Japan by Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan who joined Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vissel Kobe respectively. Chanathip Songkrasin became a star in Japan while Teerasil Dangda played a season before returning to Muangthong United. Theerathon Bunmathan had moderate success in Japan and has found another club in Yokohama F Marinos for the current season.
Image from J-League
During the same period Muangthong United and Thailand number one goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan used the Thai connection to earn a move to Belgium club Oud-Heverlee Leuven.
Having these four key players leave within the space of two months no doubt had a negative effect on the clubs performance. As these were four of the best players in the country it was impossible for the club to find adequate replacements internally within the league.
Merger of BEC Tero and Police
A merger between two traditional Thai clubs in 2017 appears to have had an inadvertent impact on Muangthong United. For a number of years Muangthong United had used BEC Tero Sasana as a sort of feeder club. The most notable occurrence of this was ahead of the triumphant 2016 campaign where Muagnthong signed six players from BEC Tero. These players were Adisak Kraisorn, Tristan Do, Adisorn Promrak, Peerapat Notchaiya, Tanaboon Kesarat, and Chanathip Songkrasin who would all go on to make up the core players in their title winning season and become household names. The following season saw Muangthong sign a further three players from BEC Tero but were less successful.
BEC Tero Sasana would eventually go on to merge with Police United FC combing the resources of these two once successful clubs. The merger meant that new club Police Tero FC have put less entasis on youth development, while also having more resources to keep hold of their current players. As the player well of BEC Tero Sasana dried up, Muangthong found it very difficult to replace the key outgoing players.
Munagthong United had made an attempt to replace outgoing players with big name players. They took out the check book for the marque signing of Charyl Chappuis in 2017 from Suphanburi FC on a lucrative contract. The move made sense in terms of marketing as Chappuis who at the time was the poster boy of the Thai league thanks to the 2014 AFF Championship win along with his film star good looks. However in terms of performances on the pitch Chappuis he has failed to live up to the hype. The under-17 world cup winner has spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch while his performances has been lacklustre.
Image From Muangthong United
Another Thai international brought in during the same transfer window to pave over the gaps in the team was forward Siroch Chatthong from Ubon United FC. The big bustling forward has never been a prolific scorer of goals but his performances for the national team persuaded Muangthong United to take a punt on his services. Siroch Chatthong was unable to make an impacting the team, never really given a chance and making only 21 appearances without scoring a goal before being shipped off to PT Prachuap FC.
Current Set Up
The team was weakened further in during the summer with the departures Peerapat Notchaiya and Tristan Do. The departures of the defensive duo was felt harder by the club as rather than move abroad they moved across town to league rivals Bangkok United FC. The departures of these two players raises the question of Muangthong’s current financial situation and ability to compete with the top clubs in Thailand.
Two years on from Cleiton Silva’s departure, the club is still looking for a recognised number nine that can score 20+ goals a season. Herbery is more of a winger than a striker, Teerasil Dangda is no longer the force he once was, and Adisak Kraisorn is too goal shy to be relied upon. In Myanmar international Aung Thu, they have a very talented creative player. However the club appears unsure of how to use him, utilising him as a striker, winger and even wing back in recent games. Muangthong United may look to teenager Korrawit Tasa in upcoming games as they are still lacking a sufficient goal threat.
The defence currently appears to have been thrown together and will require time to settle as they try and create cohesive unit. In Vietnamese goalkeeper Đặng Văn Lâm, Muangthong has finally found a suitable replacement for Kawin Thamsatchanan. Experienced South Korean Oh Ban-suk has also been brought in to partner Adisorn Promrak in the centre of defence over the summer. However, with three three players at the heart of the defence learning how to play together while speaking three separate languages, communication has been a problem. This has resulted in one of the worst defensive records in the league.
New Beginnings For Muangthong United
There is a new chapter underway as manager Totchtawan Sripan resigned while South Korean Yoon Jong-hwan has been appointed. Yoon Jong-hwan has experience managing in Korea, having held the reigns at Ulsan Hyundai FC and Cerezo Osaka, which would mean he brings in vital experience to Muangthong. Hopefully Yoon Jong-hwan will have the transfer astuteness and tactical know how to help Muangthong United get out of the relegation zone before it is too late.
Image from Bangkok Post