After two consecutive 6th-place finishes and some eye-catching performances last year, this coming season was looking like the year for Samut Prakan City to take off and truly challenge the league’s top sides. However, the club’s pandemic-hit finances were laid bare when they let both captain Peeradol Chamratsamee and vice-captain Jakkaphan Praisuwan leave to join Buriram United and BG Pathum United respectively.
Hope and optimism have now given way to dampened expectations and a pensive mood around Bang Phli. However, the side still have plenty of promising young players on the books and an excellent coach at the helm.
Head Coach – Masatada Ishii
Coach Ishii is beginning his second season with Samut Prakan City, and is widely regarded as one of the best and brightest managerial minds in the league. After wrapping up his playing career, he spent 16 years coming through the ranks at Japanese giants Kashima Antlers, before being appointed as head coach in 2015. He led the Ibaraki side to winning the J.League title in his first full season – a feat they haven’t repeated since – and took them to the final of the Club World Cup where they faced European champions Real Madrid.
The Japanese boss seems determined to mould a side that not only picks up results, but one that plays his preferred brand of possession football. He promises to continue their development despite the departure of key players in the most recent transfer window, which will be a true test of his managerial abilities. If the club can convince him to stay through this transitional season and beyond, anything could still be possible.
Key Player – Jaroensak Wonggorn (Right Winger, Thailand, age 23)
Arguably the side’s highest profile player, Jaroensak lit up the league last season and finished as the competition’s best assist maker by teeing up 14 goals for his teammates. In doing so, he became the first Thai player to win that award since Theerathon Bunmathan in 2015.
In terms of key attributes, his incredible pace makes him lethal on the counter-attack, and his crosses from the right flank have proved to be incredibly effective. He has frequently been linked with moves abroad and has publicly stated his desire to play in the J.League in the future. At present, though, he remains a nightmare for Thai League defences.
Key Player – Aris Zarifovic (Center Back, Slovenia, age 33)
Now beginning his third season with the club, Aris has established himself as a fan favorite and ‘elder statesman’ at the club. His no-nonsense, defense-first attitude means that he often looks adorably out of place in this gung-ho pressing and possession side, but there can be no denying that they are always much better when the experienced Slovenian center-back is on the pitch. Now very well acclimated to the club, we can expect him to take an even bigger leadership role this season, and hopefully improve the side’s defensive record.
Rising Star – Jiraaut Wingwon (Winger, Thailand, age 20)
Signed from third tier side STK Muangnont before the start of the 2020-21 season, Jiraaut had a quietly impressive campaign with 13 T1 appearances. Capable of playing on either flank or down the middle, his close control and dribbling ability make him a very exciting prospect. After the side’s struggles with fatigue last season, Ishii may be more willing to rotate this year, and players like Jiraaut could come in handy during the business end of the season.
Reason to Follow
Depending on who you ask, Samut Prakan City are either a franchise club symbolic of how relocations and ownership change have plagued Thai football throughout its history, or a fun hipster side which plays attractive football and provides a compelling counterpoint to the league’s elite sides. With their exciting players and excellent coach, the Sea Fang are a refreshing addition to a league where pragmatic football often reigns, and their games are invariably fun to watch.