Thailand made it two wins from two with a fairly convincing 4-0 win over Myanmar on Saturday evening. There were plenty of positive signs, from the four goals scored to the return of J.League stars Chanathip and Theerathon. Here are our five takeaways from that encounter.
Mano’s best formation?
After fielding an ‘unbalanced 4-3-3’ against Timor Leste, Mano Polking switched to a 4-4-2 diamond for the second match. The defence remained unchanged save for Theerathon replacing Tristan, while Thanawat came in for Thitipan as the ‘number 8.’ The reason for the change was clear – getting the best out of superstar Chanathip Songkrasin, who featured at the top of the diamond and in behind Teerasil and Supachai. The system worked excellently, and may just be the setup Thailand settle on for the rest of the competition.
Learning from the domestic league
Mano’s decision to go with a diamond midfield is no coincidence. Last year, BG Pathum United won the league with a midfield diamond in a 3-6-1 formation, featuring Sarach, Thitipan, Teerasil and Pathompol. This season, Bangkok United have probably been the biggest over-performers with a 4-4-2 diamond featuring Tristan, Thitipan, Manuel, and Brazilian forward Heberty, who plays a similar role to the one Chanathip fulfilled last night. The former BU boss has built his team on relationships and trends from the domestic league, immediately showing the benefits of his familiarity with Thai football and his knowledge of the talent pool.
Terrific return from Theerathon
19 November 2019. That was the last time we had the privilege of seeing Theerathon in national team colours. The return of the Marinos left-back not only improved the quality of the squad but also added an experienced head which could prove essential during this highly anticipated tournament. In a tactical sense, Theerathon’s narrow positioning is key to how Thailand progress the ball from back to front as well as breaking down the opponent’s structure. Against Myanmar, no other Thai player completed more touches (109) or passes into the final third (35). He also topped the team’s chance creation stats (7) and crosses attempted (10).
Super subs strike again
Thailand showed their strength in depth last night, bringing on Thitipan, Tristan, Pathompol, Supachok and Worachit over the course of the second half. It was the latter two that impressed the most, getting a goal and assist each to round out the comfortable win. Like we mentioned previously, having that attacking talent to call upon in tough situations could give the War Elephants a crucial edge over their opponents. Furthermore, their bright and lively performances suggest that competition in the squad remains healthy and is helping to extract the best performances from the players.
Space down the left?
Despite the clean sheet, Thailand did look occasionally vulnerable at the back. With two center-forwards up top and a left-back who likes to come inside, there was a distinct lack of width on the left side both offensively and defensively. Myanmar exploited this, among other defensive gaps, to fashion 10 shooting opportunities for themselves – a side with more quality would surely have punished Thailand. Substitute Pathompol came on for Supachai Jaided midway through the second half and, despite not being as involved in goal-scoring chances, offered much more width on the left. Pathomphon’s pace held the Myanmar wide men back slightly, and thus reduced Theerathon and Kritsada Kaman’s defensive workload. Still, Mano and the team will have to come up with a tactical solution for when Thailand comes up against more challenging opposition.