Hiring & Firing: Port’s 2020 Shopping List

 

Let us briefly forget 2019’s mid-season shopping window, when Port’s management acted like a Thai Visa regular in 7-11 who’s just been informed that an election day booze ban is taking effect in 30 minutes’ time and fills his basket with a terrifying collection of Snowy Weizen, Federbrau and that stuff in the psychedelic cans that claims to be craft beer but tastes like something squeezed out of the local soi dog’s anal glands; and instead let’s look back to the 2018-19 window when Port did their business good and early, getting rid of dead wood and strengthening where required.

This is what is needed for 2020; a sober analysis of a squad that took Port to third in T1 for the second season in a row and brought them their first silverware for a decade. No major overhauls are needed, just a look at where the weak points are and what is needed to strengthen them. Here’s my look of where Choke and Pang need to fire and hire before the 2020 season kicks off.

 

Coach

No changes needed here. We said last year that whilst we hoped otherwise, the limited but amiable Jadet wasn’t the guy to take Port to the next lebel and so it proved. Replacement Choketawee is a lot more pragmatic, tactically flexible, and ballsy enough to leave the likes of Pakorn on the bench when required, and under his leadership Port have been mean at the back and prolific in attack. For 2020, in Choke we trust.

 

Goalkeeper

Once again, none of Port’s three decent but unremarkable keepers made the shirt his own in 2019. Watchara started the season as first choice but took some of the blame – unfairly in my opinion – for Port’s mid-season slump, and was replaced by Worawut, who did a solid job. Rattanai’s few appearances showed yet again that he’s simply not robust enough to be a professional goalkeeper. For me, this is one area where Port need to improve. Worawut and Watchara are both solid keepers who would be first choice at most T1 clubs, but when you’re cup winners and title contenders, that’s no longer good enough. Apart from Kawin there are no top keepers out there, so an ASEAN, mixed nationality or even foreign keeper should be a priority given the importance of the position.

 

Defence

Port had one of T1’s meanest defences last season and this is an area where few if any changes are required.

Full-backs

In Nitipong and Kevin, Port have arguably the best pair of full-backs in T1, and in new signing Martin Steuble, they have a player who can deputise more than ably on either side. Which, given Kevin’s injury record, is just as well.

Central Defence

2019 was the year Dolah was finally recognised as one of Thailand’s top CBs, and David Rochela’s superb FA Cup performances, along with rumours I hear coming out of the PAT, suggest he’ll be retained for 2020. Todsapol had a good 2019 too and so should continue as back-up, but more backup is required here – regardless of what Choke may think, Tanaboon is NOT a CB & is incapable of playing in this position against T1’s better clubs.

 

Midfield

The arrival of Go Seul-Ki and the return to top form of Siwakorn meant that Port’s 2019 midfield had a much more solid, steely look about it, and the continued excellence of Suarez at AM meant the disappointing Sumanya didn’t see as much action as he was probably expecting when he joined.

Central Midfield

First, the good news: after spending 2019 on loan from Buriram, Go Seul-Ki is now a Port FC player! Probably the most important signing of the window in itself. Go showed in the cup final that he’s at his best pushed a little bit forward from his usual DM role. At DM, Port have Tanaboon and Anon – the former was excellent in his preferred position in the cup final, and whilst the latter barely got a look-in during a season in which he was expected to be a regular starter, Choke clearly fancies him a bit more than Jadet did and so I’d expect him to either figure more next season, or at least spend the first half out on loan getting himself back up to match speed. With Siwakorn back to his best, and the promising Sansern back from his loan, competition for places here is looking very healthy indeed.

Further forward, as yet we have no word on whether Suarez is planning to extend his stay at the PAT for another year, but given the excellent season he had and his very clearly improved fitness, it would make sense to keep him around, especially as his potential replacement – Sumanya – has been such a disappointment. Young Chanayut looked lively on his full debut against Samut Prakan and will undoubtedly get more game time in 2020, either on loan or off the bench – Choke is clearly far more keen to use youngsters than Jadet ever was. So, no changes required here.

Wings

Here’s an area where we could see some changes, with 2018’s first choice wingers – Pakorn and Nurul – both having poor seasons; Bodin nailing down a regular starting spot as a result; and Port having already snapped up free agent Tanasith. I suspect Nurul could well be heading for the exit, and Pakorn is unlikely to be too enthusiastic about getting too familiar with the bench in 2020. Expect to see the Afro Boys on the flanks for Port next year, with maybe a couple of new faces at backup should Port decide to dispense with Pakorn & Nurul and use their presumably hefty salaries elsewhere.

 

Attack

Here’s the one area that Port need to get right, after years of getting it wrong. Players who have scored for fun elsewhere – Thiago Cunha, Kaludjerovic, Boskovic etc – have all dried up at Port, mainly due to Port’s strategy of signing a big name striker without giving any thought to whether they might actually be a good fit. This season, Bosko laboured in the first half, whilst Josimar embarked on a one-man goal of the season campaign in the second, going for quality rather than quantity when it came to scoring. Blackburn showed a talent for 3-yard tap-ins and absolutely nothing else. Chenrop looked like someone had taken ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ a little too far and should be dispensed with immediately.

We believe Josi is contracted until the end of 2020 and, given he pretty much guarantees you 15 goals a season, will probably be kept on; but Port need to make a big statement here and recruit a striker who can bully and/or outfox defences and hit 20+. The name of 2019 T1 top scorer Doumbouya has already been mentioned, which would certainly be a good thing given the amount of crosses Port continue to throw into the mixer – I think given Port’s disastrous record in bringing in strikers from overseas, a proven T1 goalscorer should indeed be the target.

 

THE SHOPPING LIST

1 big ASEAN or mixed-Thai goalkeeper

1 backup central defender

1 backup winger

1 scary foreign striker with T1 experience

 

 

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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