The Sandpit 2021/22 Big Guess Up – Khonkaen United

Khonkaen United capped off a meteoric rise for themselves, with them securing back-to-back-to-back promotions via the playoffs last season. It’s quite incredible in the sense that it could’ve been Nakhon Pathom coming up instead, and you could say the exact same thing about them too! Regardless, it was the King Cobras who were promoted due to their superiority from the penalty spot, and personally: I’m very intrigued by how they’ll fare. I’m going to be honest: I felt their recruitment was… lacklustre. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve signed a few good players during the off-season [Ibson Melo for one], but I also feel they’ve signed players that showed last season that they weren’t good enough to be playing in the top tier of Thai football.

I’ll admit that I don’t know too much about the Thai players at the club, but it appears that a fair few of them have [at one stage] played for the underage Thai national teams, although considering the way the national teams are selected at times… it doesn’t say too much either. I think it’s simply a “wait and see” approach that I’ll take to the squad, but of the players that I am aware of: very few impress me. First things first, let me just say that I think re-signing Douglas Cobo, and bringing in Ibson Melo are two very smart moves for the club. They’re quality players, and if Ibson can stay fit: he’s worth 6-9 points over the course of the season.

It’s the signings of Alef, Joshua Grommen, and Yashir Islame that I have major reservations over. Two of them didn’t exactly set the world alight last season in Thai League 1 last season, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of excuses as to why, whilst the other has had an up-and-down time elsewhere in the region over the course of his career. Personally, I would’ve found it more interesting to see how the players who got them promoted would’ve fared, as bar Ibson Melo: I don’t think their new signings are any better than the players they’ve replaced.

 

Carlos Eduardo Parreira in holding scarf shot

Head Coach – Carlos Eduardo Parreira

Khonkaen United has had a host of head coaches since their return to the Thai League structure, with Wikipedia [great source, right!?] saying that Carlos Eduardo Parreira is their 6TH head coach since 2018. I remember at the end of last season, they seemed to begin to panic, with Sugao Kambe being sacked, with his replacement eventually steering them to promotion via the playoffs. He’s since been redesignated to another role, and although it was speculated that Sirisak Yodyardthai would take charge, Parreira was announced not long after.

He seems to have had a great mixture of success and failure during his time in Thailand, and it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Would it have been wiser to get an experienced Thai League 1 coach in? Probably. Would that have even been possible? Maybe not. Good luck to the Brazilian, although if history is anything to go by, he better win a few games quickly, or he’ll be on the lookout for a new job!

 

Key Player – Douglas Cobo

To me: Douglas is ‘Mr Khonkaen United’. He signed for the club in 2018 when they were in Thai League 4, and he’s been with them ever since. He’s the captain of the club, a fantastic professional, and he’s the glue of the squad. I was pleased to see him playing at the base of the midfield last season, and although he’s just as comfortable as a central-defender: it’s midfield where I think he’s of most value to the team. He can read the game well, recycle possession, and not to mention: he takes a good penalty too! With Douglas in the midfield, the King Cobras are in safe hands, and I’m happy to see him lining up for the club in Thai League 1. When you consider how little loyalty there is to foreign players from clubs at times [and vice versa, of course], it’s great to see a player remain in one place for so long, and enjoy so much success in the process. Well done to all involved!

Another player worth mentioning is also Ibson Melo, who [if he can keep fit] should bang in quite a few goals over the course of the season. He’s replacing Paulo Conrado, who scored a hell of a lot of goals for the club, so he’s got big boots to fill. I was actually quite surprised to see Conrado depart the club, and we’ll have to wait and see if this decision will be vindicated.

 

Douglas Cobo and friends

 

My Prediction – Relegation battle

I just can’t get past how horrendous the recruitment of defensive players has been for the club. Alef didn’t set the world alight at Suphanburi last season, narrowly avoiding relegation, whilst Filipino central-defender Joshua Grommen was a key player in a side that WAS relegated. I’m not saying it was personally his fault, but if you’re a key member of a defence with the third-worst defensive record in the league AND the club is relegated: you haven’t exactly done your job very well either. It’s simply a case of they’re going to have to score a hell of a lot of goals in order to win games this season, as I can’t see them keeping many cleansheets.

There’s a good chance that Khonkaen United become a yo-yo club between Thai League 1 and Thai League 2, as I do think that if they do go down: they’ll know what’s required in order to come back up. I’d like them to do well, as I want to do an away game there, but there’s just too many question marks for me. Regardless: good luck to them!

 

Khonkaen United Kobra Kai esk

UnTacticalTimes

UnTacticalTimes

The Sandpits grumpy little thundercloud. You suspect he hates Christmas and doesn't leave the house over Songkran for fear of seeing people enjoy themselves. The author of this one decided to use a nom de plume of their choosing.

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