Chairfree PAT Of Dreams: Tom’s 2020 Season Preview

 

Port move in to 2020 with a major trophy victory from last season still fresh in the memory, as well as a pre-season trophy that’s even fresher. We’ve also made arguably the biggest signing of the window, bring in our rivals’ best player for a big pot of cash. So we should be looking at more silverware this year right, and maybe even that coveted T1 title?

Not so fast.

There’s much more to Port’s squad than meets the eye, and having watched us throughout pre-season I’m less optimistic about Port’s chances this year than last year or even the year before. Here’s why.

 


 

Big Game Woes

We’ve suffered every season from failing to beat the big boys when it matters. This pre-season we basically won every game that didn’t matter and lost every game that did. The early loss to Ceres was an absolutely massive blow, with our players being out-fought rather than out-played, with individual errors in both defence and attack proving to be the final nail in the coffin. In the Leo Cup we were fortunate, being awarded a last minute penalty against Chiang Rai then waiting for the last 20 minutes to play decent football against Muangthong, who should have already put the game to bed by the time we staged our comeback. In the Champion’s Cup we were again too vulnerable at the back, always too weak and too slow when it mattered and lacking the attacking intent to trouble our opposition at the other end.

 

Signing Foes

This season we have been shopping at the SCG like it’s payday at the poundshop. Heberty, Adisak and Chappuis iare the latest additions. What do they add? Well, I’ll leave aside their qualities as players for now and just talk about the effect their arrivals will have on our squad. They are players that are in some sense un-droppable. They shouldn’t be of course, but you know what our management is like. When money is spent on a big player, they will play. Be it Tana, Boskovic or Tanaboon, when a player of a certain reputation arrives, a role in the team will be made for them, regardless of form or the effect it has on how we play. This year we have Heberty, Adisak and Chappuis on the books all pulling in pretty big salaries, and Choke is going to have a hell of a balancing act on his hands getting them all sufficient minutes to please both their egos and that of his boss, while also playing well and winning games. Good luck, Choke.

 

 

Then there is the effect that this dynamic has on the rest of the squad. Players like Adisorn Daeng-rueng, Arthit Boodjinda and Todsapol Lated have all been massively important squad players for Port  in recent times and seasons’ past. Adisorn has moved on, Arthit has been loaned out and Todsapol is still hanging on as fourth choice centre back, but their marginalization in Port’s squad, for the benefit of bigger named higher-salaried players who in many cases offer less to the squad, is typical of the way things are going in Khlongtoei. Port are trading their identity and the qualities that hard-working underdogs bring for prima donnas who don’t even look like they want to be here. How did Heberty celebrate his penalty goals in the Leo Cup? By looking moody and cupping his hands to his ears. What plaudits has he earned through his play to justify that? How did Adisak celebrate his last-minute Leo Cup winner? He stood there looking apologetic while those around him celebrated.

The mood and feeling in the squad matters. Going from a group of largely motivated players under Jadet to an increasingly overpaid, entitled group under Choke is, in my opinion, going to start back-firing this season.

 

 

One player who will hopefully buck that trend is smiley new winger Tanasith. A long time favourite of mine, Tanasith has made a fantastic impact already, and in any kind of meritocracy he would be starting the first T1 game of the season. Kannarin has also looked like a useful option in midfield, but he’s likely to be shunted down the pecking order with the arrival of Chappuis.

 

Stepping on Toes

The Heberty-Suarez conundrum can be very easily compared to the Nebihi-Suarez conundrum or the Boskovic-Suarez conundrum. We consistently sign foreign players who play in the same position, with no thought about how they will fit in to our team. Heberty is exhibit 37 of this. At the moment he’s sometimes playing on the right, and sometimes through the middle. When he plays on the right, Pakorn plays on the left. You don’t need me to tell you how that goes. When he plays through the middle, Suarez is forced to try to play as a striker, which he isn’t. He does a half-decent job, but it’s far from his best position, and is Heberty any more productive than Suarez in the hole anyway?

 

 

Heberty has a massive amount to do to prove to the Khlongtoei faithful that he’s worthy of his massive reputation. Things have gotten off to the worst possible start, and the Brazilian is going to need to perform much, much better than he has been doing so far if he wants to last the season in Port colours.

 

Choke Knows (Nothing)

 

 

I made this point repeatedly in my podcasts, but it isn’t a popular opinion. Choke was very lucky last season. Most of his decisions as manager have been head-scratchers for me, and the fact that Port still won a decent amount of games under his management was fortune rather than sound strategy. Josimar on the right wing? Get out of here. Tanaboon as CB? Nonsense. It might be better to be lucky than good in the short term, but with a whole season ahead of him, Choke is going to have to craft a system that gets the best out of as many of Port’s key players as possible. So far only Suarez has shown form and has consistently produced results. Pakorn, Bordin, Heberty and Adisak have all struggled going forward, while the defence has been repeatedly poor. Never fear though, the Spherical Supremo is waiting in the wings!

 

Form Lows

It’s not all Choke’s fault, though. He can’t account for players being utterly useless.

Heberty is the obvious example. Whether playing on the wings, in the hole or up front Heberty has been poor. He’s been selfish from open play and set-pieces, he’s slowed down Port’s attacking advances and he’s generally looked like a mope. This is not the player we thought we were signing.

Bordin too has been poor. I didn’t see his apparently impressive second half showing against Chiang Rai, but I’ve seen more than enough in other games to know that the decline Bordin showed in the second half of last season is continuing. He’s lacking confidence, and he seems to be a player who can’t do much without it.

Pakorn had his least productive season for Port by some distance last season, and that’s only going to get worse if he’s asked to play as an aldaera on the left. He isn’t the kind of winger who can play on the left and cut inside. He’s a right winger. Enough of the tactical mumbo jumbo. We’re not a well-trained, tactically refined team from a top European league, and we need to stop pretending we are. Do the simple things right, like playing players in their best positions, rather than shoe-horning everyone in to positions they can’t play and pretending it’s some kind of modern tactical system.

Adisak has been mostly poor, although he had his best few minutes yet in the Leo Cup final, providing an assist for Go and finishing well from Nattawut’s cross. He’ll need to do that much more consistently if he’s going to be trusted to lead Port’s line. As always, we’re better off signing a real foreign striker or even bringing back Josimar, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

 

 

Rochela hasn’t looked like the calm, smooth centre back we remember from previous seasons. It’s a tough one because dropping him turned out to be the wrong decision last season, but whether or not Rochela keeps his place in the squad ahead of Josimar or another foreign player is a crucial decision for management to make.

Dolah has also allowed mistakes to creep in to his game in pre-season, and that’s another concern. If his form dips, that’s another thing to worry about this season that we didn’t have to last season.

Worawut has been looking flappier than ever in pre-season, so expect the usual goalkeeping merry-go-round at Port. They’re all pretty decent so it’s no different from seasons past, mind.

 

 

Rows and Rows

The new seats suck. Finding seats, getting to them and being able to stand up and sit down without falling over are all things we’ll struggle more with next season. There will also be a reduced capacity. All for one game. Which we lost. What a shame.

 

Leos

Well, that was quite a rant. Here’s some perspective.

Does anything I’ve been whingeing about really matter in the grand scheme of things? No, not particularly. I’m still going to be coming along to every game I reasonably can, I’m still going to be cheering the boys to victory, hopefully a great many times once again. We’re still going to make the best of the new stadium situation, and our fans – the thing that makes our club so unique – are still going to be the best in the league. Might I spend a little more time drinking Leo outside with Toby this season? Yes, I may well do, but I’m still going in to the season with the intention of having a good time and enjoying myself, regardless of how good or how poor we are on the pitch. We are Port, and that means we’re going to have a whale of a time whatever happens. I’ve seen us relegated, so what does it really matter if we finish sixth rather than second this season?

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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