Last season’s league campaign was extremely disappointing for Chonburi, as they slumped to their lowest ever top flight finish. However, a run to the final of the 2020-21 FA Cup breathed new life into the side, and the team looked genuinely impressive in the competition’s latter stages, which took place after the league season had ended.
The side have built on that momentum well during the off season with some stellar recruitment in the transfer window. They have also won the fans over with the promotion of exciting young players from the club’s academy, all of whom are acclimating well to senior football. The building blocks for a great campaign are in place on the Eastern Seaboard, but making them come together is the challenge that still remains elusive.
Head Coach – Sasom Pobprasert
Sasom’s tenure at Chonburi has largely been marked by inconsistency, both in terms of the club’s approach and results on the pitch. Flashes of brilliance were followed by long spells of mediocrity, enthralling attacking football would precede dour and defensive displays, and a strategy of recruiting old veterans shortly after his arrival was scrapped in favor of youth promotion. This means that, even after two seasons in the job, it is still difficult to give a solid verdict on coaching.
Despite the poor results last season, Sasom was able to redeem himself first by bringing through a host of young players from the club’s academy, and then by guiding the side to the FA Cup final. The 53-year-old coach now appears to have the full backing of the board heading into the new campaign, but improvement is a must in order to have a satisfactory season.
Key Player – Dennis Murillo (ST, Brazil, age 29)
After coming second in the Thai League’s golden boot race last season with Nakhon Ratchasima, Dennis Murillo was on the radar of both foreign and top Thai clubs before finally settling in Chonburi. The fact that the Sharks were able to snag such a prolific goalscorer is impressive both as a show of ambition and because of what Murillo can bring to the team. Along with the characteristics of a physically imposing goalscorer, the Brazilian is also known for his impressive close control, link up play with surrounding teammates, and flair for the sublime.
Key Player – Kritsada Kaman (CDM/CB, Thailand, age 22)
Despite being 22, Kritsada Kaman is already a leader in this Chonburi side and only continues to improve with each passing season. Deployed as either a defensive midfielder or as part of a back-three, Kritsada is an extremely capable ball winner and has developed his abilities in possession as well. His passion and aggression have made him a fan favorite, and his versatility is an excellent asset for coach Sasom. The Thai U23 international only missed four games all season last year, and even wore the captain’s armband for the first time.
Rising Star – Chatmongkol Rueangthanarot (LB, Thailand, age 19)
After making his debut for the side last season, Chatmongkol quickly became irreplaceable in Chonburi’s starting lineup. Unlike many of Thailand’s other promising young left-backs, the 19-year-old’s primary strength is in his defending and positional sense. His ability to completely shut out and ‘pocket’ even some of the league’s most impressive attackers earned him a call-up to the senior national team by Akira Nishino, where he made an appearance in an exhibition match. Now one of the first names on the team sheet, another solid campaign should set him up for a very promising career trajectory.
Reason to follow
The Sharks were already a side with both young promising players and experienced campaigners. Now, they have added genuine difference makers in the final third, with the arrivals of Dennis Murillo and Gidi Kanuk. If the puzzle pieces come together well, Chonburi could be a formidable side in the Thai League this season.