Despite failing to qualify to the knockout round, Chiangrai United can feel proud of their achievement in the 2021 AFC Champions League. The Beetles collected 3 more points than they did in 2020 and improved their goal difference from -6 to +1. The Thai football community showered Chiangrai with praise after a spirited performance against Gamba Osaka on matchday five, which was followed by a courageous fight against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and a thumping victory over Tampines Rovers.
On the pitch, 37 year old forward Bill Rosimar showed no sign of slowing down. Attacking midfielder Sivakorn Tiatrakul played like prime-Mesut Ozil. Ekanit Panya looked like a much more confident boy in Chiangrai’s orange than the national team’s blue. The same could even be said about the club captain Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul who no longer seems shy to run the midfield.
If there are any lessons to learn from the ACL 2021, it’s that Chiangrai CAN and DID improved after experience on the continental level. Having said that, there are obvious areas where the 2020 FA Cup Champions could do with an upgrade; the transfer market might be Chiangrai’s perfect solution.
Additional Defensive Dimension.
7 goals conceded in 6 games is on-brand with how Chiangrai plays their football. And when you consider that 5 of those goals came against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors i.e. the K League champions, then it’s nothing to be ashamed of at all.
Centre-back Brinner Henrique averages 7.0 clearances per game, which ranked him 4th in the competition. Meanwhile, Tanasak Srisai has been described by president Miti Tiyapairat as “A defender I can’t do without. Everything just looks right when he’s next to Brinner”.
Having said that, I do believe, by adding a ball-playing defender into their back-3, could transform Chiangrai from a good to a great side. Shinnaphat Leeaoh is currently the club’s go-to guy when playing out from the back but without the 24 years old, Chiangrai is often left with the more limited, and almost identical, Tanasak Srisai and Sarawut Inpan.
Obviously, shoving a pure ball-playing centre-back (i.e. Samut Prakan City’s Jakkaphan Praisuwan) into this back-3 would only disrupt the whole setup. Hence, Chiangrai’s potential new centre-back should first of all…
- Know how to defend! Confidence on the ball is important but only as a secondary strength.
- Is comfortable in a low-block.
- Is primarily a centre-back but bonus points for versatility.
With all that out of the way, my first suggestion for Chiangrai United is Chamlermsak Aukkee from Police Tero FC. The 26-year-old played in a back-3 system for Buriram United at youth level as well as for Ubon United, BG Pathum United, and occasionally for Police Tero FC. Chamlermsak loves the dark arts of defending so he’ll fit right in with his partners at the back.
There have been no major transfer deals between Police Tero FC and Chiangrai United since the signing of Sivakorn Tiatrakul and Tanasak Srisai in 2017, which hint at a distant business relationship between the two clubs. Plus, Chamlermsak might be hesitant to leave due to promise of first-team football and status as the main Thai centre-back under Rangsan Viwatchaichok’s reign.
Chonburi FC’s Songchai Thongcham, 20, could be a younger, less expensive, alternative to Chamlermsak. The Sharks’ academy graduated many neutrals, myself included, with a matured and composed performance in the FA Cup semi-final win over Buriram United.
Compared to his counterpart, Songchai may not be as “nutty” when defending or as adventurous playing out from the back, but the former Thai under-18 more than compensate with his positioning sense, aerial prowess and the potential to grow better as an all-round defender.
A pacey Thai striker
Bill’s hold up play is an integral part of Chiangrai United’s counter-attacking play as it allows the side to get men forward in numbers, often after one single direct pass. However, a pacey striker would give Chiangrai much needed unpredictability up front. Though a fine target man in his own right, Akarawin Sawasdee is not the quickest and should be viewed as backup for Bill instead of a partnership. Winger Somkid Chamnarnsilp is often forced into a striker role when Chiangrai United wants to attack the space behind the opposition defence. Still, there’s only so much a makeshift striker could do; thus it’ll be a wise option for Chiangrai to recruit an attacker who’s…
- A local player so as not to affect the current foreign quota.
- Quick, can play on the break, and reliable in one-on-one situations.
- Can play on the flanks as a secondary position.
Bangkok United’s Chananan Pombuppha fits the above description perfectly; the 29 years old might want to compete for game time elsewhere for the benefit of his career, following the recent arrival of Anthony Carter.
Because they are different styles of players, Chananan is not in direct competition with Akarawin and would definitely start over Somkid as a striker.
Due to the players’ profile, Chananan’s representative and Bangkok United might be asking for quite a hefty fee.
If that is the case, Chiangrai United could turn to Police Tero FC’s Yodsak Chaowana as a younger and cheaper alternative. The 25 years old is comfortable across the attacking line and possesses an abundance of pace which compliments Chiangrai counter-attacking style perfectly. Another, more experienced, option is Jirapon Phasukihan who netted 12 goals for second tier side Nakhon Pathom United in the 2020/21.
Not someone who looks to get involved in link up play, Jirapon prefers to play on the last line of the opposition defence so it’s no surprise to see he gets most of his goals via one-on-one situations with the keeper or during counter-attacks.
Yodsak and Jirapon both possess the right qualities to thrive in Chiangrai United’s tactical framework and are different enough from the current backup roster of forwards.
There we have it, five sensible transfer options for two positions Chiangrai United could do with a bit of an upgrade. Will any of these suggestions come true? Who do you want Chiangrai United to sign? Tell us your ideas and don’t forget to like and follow us on all social media platforms.