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The Sandpit 2021/22 Big Guess Up – Buriram

There aren’t many clubs where two seasons without a trophy, would be considered a drought but then not many clubs around the world enjoy the level of dominance Buriram has had over the recent history of Thai football. Not that last season was terrible, it started poorly with 5 defeats in the first ten games. The last of which saw Alexandre Gama’s second spell at the helm get off to a somewhat uninspiring start with just a point at Trat from his first two games and five goals conceded. However thereafter the Isaan club was flying for the rest of the season. Collecting more points than title winners BG Pathum United in the remaining rounds. Whilst the champion’s defence was being heralded, Buriram matched them over the last sixteen rounds as both clubs managed a remarkable eleven clean sheets.

 

oi maaaaaate, how many years since you won anything?

That tight defence is lead by the dependable Pansa Hemviboon. Whilst the departure of Sasalak Haiprakhon for the first half of the season to Jeonbuk in Korea is certainly a disadvantage, there’s potentially a massive upgrade in the backline coming in the form of Brazilian centre back Digão, who arrived in the middle of last season only to be barely seen, playing in the three cup games but only making one league matchday squad where he was an unused substitute.  If the plan was to give him time to get used to Thai conditions it’s potentially a masterstroke as he was till recently a regular for Fluminense, a solid midtable team in the Brazilian top tier.

Also remaining at the club for a second season are Brazilian forwards Maicon and Samual Rosa.  The jury seems to be still out on these two. A feeling seeming shared by the club as the summer started with them pursuing the signing of Barros Tardeli (who had previously been linked heavily with Port). To the point, it was reported as a done deal with a rumoured private jet flying him and his wife into the Thai countryside to help with issues around visa’s and/or COVID. Yet the deal wasn’t completed and Tardeli instead headed to K League and Suwon FC.

Since getting hold of Diogo and Tunez, the foreign signings made by Buriram just haven’t worked.  Given that it’s not like this a club shops in the Carlos kickaball bargain bins that most Thai league budgets necessitate, you’d expect somewhat more from the numerous big money signings with track records featuring stints in numerous major leagues, yet it never quite happens. However, these two are getting what most of those haven’t, time. I’ve liked Rosa on occasions and expect him to come good.  Given that they also have Supachok and Suphanat at their disposal and an owner not afraid to spend in mid-season should the need arise. I don’t expect there to be major problems getting goals this season.

 

 

 

Head Coach – Gama

Quite simply if you let him come in get on with the job success seems almost certain to follow (which could be why he’s never managed Port). His only “failure” in Thailand came at Muangthong. Although even there he still managed to win over 50% of games.  Elsewhere it’s been year on year success since he took over at Buriram in 2014. A footballing pragmatist would probably be a fair description of Gama’s style. He knows how to win and finds a way to do it be it pretty or backs to the wall. That it often isn’t the most open style that he chooses, counts against him with some,  especially as he’s led some of the best funded clubs, however, the doubters tend to be silenced come the end of the season when the trophy’s roll in.

 

 

Gama – loves a Britpop coat

 

Key Player – Peeradon Chamratsamee

To be honest, I’ve been getting heaps of abuse for this selection in the preview chat. The general feeling was this guy is very much one of those Thai central midfielders, winning a game 2-1, no worries he’ll turn on the tricks and pretty passes and put you out of sight. Conversely, when it’s dogs of war time and you’re in a tight contest with near rivals or just generally outgunned by superior opposition he’ll go missing. A case that his performances in the league against Port last season support. In round two he was largely anonymous as Samut Prakan Dons were beaten 4-1, come Christmas and with SPD 2-0 up inside 7 minutes, his role was reversed as he bossed the midfield picking Port apart, as they chased the game and he pulled the strings on a 6-3 win. I was surprised to discover he was as old as 28, I’d assumed he was younger and had more time on his side to develop.  So why is he my key play? Well primarily he suits Buriram, there will be far fewer games, where he isn’t on the dominant side and when they do come up against the top teams he’ll be surrounded by better players than in his time with Pattaya and SPD, who will offer more help to turn the tide. There’s also a bit of the bedevilment to him, as we’re talking about a player who has managed to collect yellow cards more regularly than Siwakorn over the last two seasons. I beleive he can offer the kind of midfield craft that Buriram has been lacking in recent seasons.

 

 

Peeradon Chamratsamee lovely shirt fella

 

 

 

My Prediction – Champions

There’s plenty of questions still to be answered about this Buriram team. However looking at the whole package, l see less that is likely to go wrong than their fellow title challengers. If Digão is a dud, they’ve already dealt with being without him and had a watertight defence. Given that they outperformed BG from the time Gama got settled/ the second half of the season and BG have regressed it seems the logical choice to make them favorites for the title. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we see the Rangsit Bunnys defend the title or one of the other members of the “big 5” has a better than predicted season and top the table. It’s just for me, Buriram are mostly likely finish the season as champions.

 

Ex Port man Niran Hansson moved to Buriram preseason, I guess it wasn’t a kit based decision.

 

James Clarke

James Clarke

Originally from England, James first came to Thailand in 2010 to escape big cities and spend time on beaches away from crowds. He now divides his time between living in Bangkok and wishing he was living in Bangkok.

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