Photo credit: Jane Chalinee
The webmaster of thai-fussball.de made an interesting point recently concerning the number of penalties awarded at the Thunderdome and the fact that they seemed to be very frequent.
It's an understandable concern, but was it correct? Such complaints used to be frequently aimed at the Liverpool side in the Dalgleish years because of the number of late penalties awarded in front of the Kop End at Anfield. In later years, the same complaints predictably switched targets to Manchester United, though a report showed the 'Red Devils' received less penalties than several other teams in the EPL.
But enough of those minnows, what about Muangthong? At first I planned to knock up a spreadsheet to record the number of penalties along with the player fouled, time of award, etc. Then I remembered that I left my anorak in the UK and that my wife is a real person, not a mail order blow-up doll. So instead, here is a quick check from memory, subject to error:
VB Sports: Yes (2)
Navy Rayong: Yes
Bangkok United: No
Buriram PEA: No
BEC Tero: Yes
Pattaya United: Yes
So "yes" = 6 (two in one game) "No" = 2. At least three penalties every four games. It is also interesting that all but two of these penalties were awarded in front of the Ultras Stand.
Of course, this data alone doesn't tell us anything whatsoever. What we really need to know is: were these penalties justified? Was the ref giving them by instinct or under encouragement from fans and players? Even then, we would not be able to tell if this was giving us an advantage, we'd need to check the same statistics for every other team in the league. Moreover, if we are going to do things scientifically (which I'm obviously not right now), we'd need the data from a whole season.
So all we can do right now is try hard to be objective. I can honestly say two things based on my own personal opinion. Of all the penalties I have seen close up this season, only one was a mistake by the official and in the two games where the penalty was the deciding goal in the match - Navy Rayong and Pattaya United - we were clearly the better team and sought to play open, attacking football against players who not only sought a draw, but did so by very, very dubious means. I believe Muangthong players do not look for penalties because they feel they are the better side and can win by playing the game properly. I'd be interested to hear other opinions, though.