BG Pathum United are a force to be reckoned with in the Thai League. The Rabbits won the competition with a games-played-adjusted points record last season, and were just one match away from going unbeaten for the entire campaign.
However, the Pathum Thani side could be virtually unrecognizable during the upcoming campaign, having radically overhauled their style with a surprising coaching change. Known for their incredibly functional football last season, the side only conceded 13 goals all year and had netted 67% of their own from set pieces by the end of the first leg. They also ended the campaign with defender Victor Cardozo as top scorer, another testament to their unique approach.
Now without coach Dusit Chalermsan and captain Thitipan Puangchan, the side are reinventing themselves once again and begin their title defence off the back of a successful AFC Champions League group stage campaign.
Head Coach – Aurelio Vidmar
Returning to the Leo Stadium after helming the Rabbits in 2016 and 2017, Australian coach Aurelio Vidmar finds himself in the rather odd position of replacing an incredibly successful, title-winning coach. The pressure will be on from day one to prove that BG’s gamble was the right decision.
Vidmar’s appointment was initially needed due to his predecessor’s lack of sufficient licenses for the AFC Champions League, but it could also represent BG’s desire to stay one step ahead and keep evolving despite already hitting a winning formula. The Australian’s BG side is far more adept in possession and aggressive in its pressing, and will likely be proactive in situations where they were previously reactive. Furthermore, the sharp eye for game-changing substitutions he demonstrated in the ACL is also an encouraging sign for BG supporters.
Many believe that the experienced tactician wasn’t given a fair chance last time around, and with a much stronger squad at his disposal, Thailand might finally get to see the best of Aurelio Vidmar.
Key Player – Victor Cardozo (Center-back, Brazil, age 31)
The club’s top scorer last season, towering central defender Victor Cardozo is commencing his seventh season in Thailand and his second in the blue of BG Pathum. Likely to wear the captain’s armband for the upcoming campaign, his leadership at the back enabled the Rabbits to keep the Thai League’s best ever defensive record on route to the title last season. Additionally, attacking threat from set-pieces and the penalty spot make him a formidable presence in both boxes and an invaluable player for the defending champions.
Key Player – Diogo Luis Santo (Striker, Brazil, age 34)
Scorer of a staggering 101 goals from 105 games for Buriram United, Diogo Luis Santo is arguably the best player to have ever set foot in the Thai League. Despite being 34, the former Palmeiras and Olympiacos man showed that he still has an abundance of quality in the Champions League, where he scored three, assisted four, and showed excellent all-round attacking play. Diogo is a consistent goalscorer and has a record of making the difference in pivotal games – something which could give the Rabbits the edge this season.
Rising Star – Chaowat Veerchart (Central Midfielder, Thailand, age 25)
Chaowat’s career has looked poised to take off for a number of seasons now, and after several false starts, his inclusion this year is genuinely warranted. The former Cerezo Osaka loanee seems to be a favorite of coach Vidmar, who lovingly refers to him as ‘Inchy’ and played in him regularly in the Champions League. The shock departure of Thitipan Puangchan has carved a hole for him in the starting eleven, and Vidmar’s emphasis on possession football certainly plays to his strengths. After showing flashes of brilliance in small doses over the past few campaigns, this could finally, finally be Chaowat Veerachart’s year.
Reason to Follow
Managerial change is far too common in the Thai League, but BG Pathum’s bold decision to alter their winning formula and evolve when in front is eye-catching even by this standard. Whether the Rabbits can repeat the feat with this new approach will be a recurring theme throughout the season and should make for an exciting watch.