Southeast Asia

2019 Season Predictions – SEA Most Underperforming Team

This week on Football Tribe, we will be looking ahead to the 2019 season with a new feature series. Today, we will evaluate which teams might struggle this season in each of South-East Asia’s four major leagues.


Club: SCG Muangthong United

2018 League Position: 4th

Manager: Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok

Key Player: Teerasil Dangda

We admit, predicting The Kirins to underperform is a bold move but hear us out. You see, they might have a squad full of fantastic foreign and local players, with many representing Thailand at different youth levels, but what SCG Muangthong United clearly lack is balance and squad cohesion. They are a front heavy side with plenty of firepower and players who thrive with attacking freedom and little defensive responsibility. Yet the club decided to appoint Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok, a great tactician, but also a renowned pragmatist. He announced during his unveiling that he prefers "to win in style," but we are yet to see evidence of that so far. Then there's the issue with recruitment. Last term, Brazilian forward Heberty topped the club's scoring charts with 26 goals, and ideally, the team could (and maybe even should) be built around him. However, with Teerasil Dangda's return from his J League spell, who knows what will happen to Heberty. The two could've been amazing playing off one another, but add attacking midfielder Mario Gjurovski to that and things just get complicated. The Macedonian-maverick won't be happy as anybody's backup. To get the best from him, he needs to feel loved and valued, and failing to do so and it could all go wrong just like it did at BG Pathum United last season. And we haven't even mentioned the likes of Adisak Kraisorn, Aung Thu and all the other players fighting for the spotlight! The absence of balance means there is no clear identity or style of play. They are not the free-flowing attacking force like they once were. And they lack the hardworking, disciplined nature generally associated with a team coached by Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok. If the club can't sort this out fast, it could be a tough start to the season for the 4 time Thai League winner.


Club: Thanh Hoa FC

2018 League Position: 2nd

Manager: Nguyen Duc Thang

Key Player: Hoang Dinh Tung

Thanh Hoa FC are the runners up and with the fans always hoping they can be the title contenders. After failing to achieve the highest place in 2018 season, the club want to be champions ahead of next season. But before the start of the season, the main sponsor FLC announced that they couldn't continue to collaborate with the club. After that, half of the squad confirmed that they will leave the club to find the new destination. Thanh Hoa now will be forced to accept that their squad will be significantly weaker next season, and comprised mostly of younger players. Going from title contenders, Thanh Hoa may now face difficulties in merely surviving next season.


Club: Kedah FA

2018 League Position: 6th

Manager: Aidil Sharin Sahak

Key Player: Badrool Bakhtiar

Kedah's inconsistency last season was caused mostly by major stunts in terms of managerial appointments. In a single season, Kedah rotated through three coaches - Ramón Marcote Pequeño, Nidzam Adzha and Azzmi Aziz. This season, Singapore-born manager Aidil Sharin Sahak takes the hot seat left by the previous three coaches. He previously managed Home United and looked as a non-candidate for the Kedah squad. Additionally, his lack of experience and tactical rigidity may be an issue for Kedah next season. Additionally, the management of Kedah Football Association (KFA) has changed massively with the influx of new faces. Even though it looks like a movement in the right direction, drastic changes may have a bad impact on the team.


Club: Persela Lamongan

2018 League Position: 13th

Manager: Aji Santoso

Key Player: Dendy Sulistyawan

Persela Lamongan traditionally isn’t a big and ambitious club, and they typically finish in a mid-table position. In 2018, they looked strong especially in the midfield area with Saddil Ramdani and Fahmi Al-Ayyubi on the flank and Diego Assis as the playmaker. Now all their foreign players’ contracts have not been extended. This season Laskar Joko Tingkir will depend on their young players, with talents like Arif Satria, Birrul Walidan and so on. They also don't have any registered foreign players as of now. At least Persela is still managed by Aji Santoso, the man who coached them last season, bringing much-needed stability to the club.