With the arrival of Adnan Barakat wrapped up sooner than expected, where should Muangthong look to strengthen next? Let's take a quick look at the squad and bearing in mind our mistakes last season, think about our priorities ahead.
The only problem with having quite possibly the best goalie in Asia is that he's going to move on at some point. The only reason it didn't happen last season was due to Kawin's moderately serious injury at the time. Now he's back on form we should be pessimistic and imagine him leaving.
Second choice Weera has looked a little error-prone in the few chances he's had but could well improve with more match practise and third choice Witsanuk is considered to have great potential, but is still a little green.
Verdict: Medium priority. The key here is inside knowledge. If the board know Kawin is likely to get snapped up then the priority should be an experienced goalkeeper who is already in Thailand. Police United's goalie would top my list. On the other hand if we try to hold on to Kawin for at least one more season, then we have adequate back-up in the ranks already.
The back four that was almost impregnable in 2010 took a battering in the latter part of the 2011 season. Zesh's departure creates another opening and although Ali Diarra has looked impressive, I still wonder if defence is his best position. The lad is quick and good at dribbling but not super-powerful in the air. Moreover, the physical demands of playing defence seems to take its toil on our two main defenders Nattaporn and Panupong who both suffer niggling injuries on fairly regular basis.
In the full back slots we have two excellent youngsters but surely we should have at least one older player ready to ease the physical and mental pressure on them.
Verdict: high priority. With the above points in mind, I'd say defence is our most crucial rank to strengthen for next season. We need not one but two quality defenders. I'm not aware of any domestic defenders good enough to make the grade but perhaps one of our nursery clubs has a hidden gem, or maybe one of the relegated clubs needs to offload their better players. One should be the Nattaporn type: tough, tall and willing to get stuck in. The other should be the Panupong mold: skillful, able to read the game well and able to switch marking. Let go of Santi and Thiemba.
Barakat 's addition should give Datsakorn some healthy competition in set piece taking next season. Indeed, first impressions of Barakat make him look very similar to the MTU and Thailand number seven. Elsewhere in midfield we still have quality and depth with players like Pornsai, Siaka, Buntao and Arromsowa. Ongoing negotiations with Guti are a poorly kept secret.
The only area we might need to reinforce is defensive midfield. When Moussa Sylla left in 2010, he was admirably replaced by Coulibly Abdoul, who has since vanished. The void has not been properly filled since.
Verdict: Low priority, but a good defensive midfielder would be a welcome addition.
First things first: Robbie must retire if he's going to be our coach next season. Continuing to try and start himself in every game would be suicide for our title campaign. Elsewhere, Teerasil and Christian remain two of the best attackers in Thailand but the former seems to be feeling the burden of expectation. In the FA Cup final he sometimes looked like he needed to do it all by himself. Christian has played almost every game for the last two seasons, which is why he picked up an ankle injury late into the latest campaign. He needs cover. Ahnon Sangsanoi has not fitted in to Muangthong and can leave. We also had a promising young striker named Ibrahim disappear on loan to PTT pre-season. Where is he now?
Verdict: Medium priority. Either a pacey outside forward and/or another poacher would really boost the squad. Let go of Ahnon. Issoufaou - the troubling winger who went out on loan this season - should get one more chance.