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Tom’s Transfer Talk: Go-in, Go-in, Hwan!

 

With the arrival of Go Seul-ki at Port confirmed (pending the Madame Pang selfie, of course) Kim Sung-hwan has finally agreed to join Suphanburi on loan. Despite much improved performances in the second half of 2018, it was clear that Kim was still struggling for fitness, and at 32 was probably never going to be the player that Port thought they had signed last season. Despite being the same age as his compatriot, there are a few reasons why Go will be a big upgrade for Port.

Firstly, he’s proven himself in Thai football. The winner of 8 trophies, including 2 league titles in his 3 years with Buriram, Go understands how the game is played in Thailand, and how best to marshal his midfield to success. Kim certainly tried to direct proceedings from the middle of the park at Port, but it often felt as though he was swimming against the tide. With his experience, Thai/English communication skills, and some new teammates to boot, Go ought to be able to lead a more cohesive midfield unit in 2019.

Secondly, he’s fit. Go has just finished a season in the Korean top flight where he was a regular starter for Incheon United, even captaining his side on occasions in the run-in.  In fairness I do remember writing something eerily similar just before Kim’s arrival, but whilst Kim looked out of shape from the moment he arrived, here’s a recent picture of Go.

 

 

Finally, he’s got some connections within the Port squad. With a limited knowledge of both Thai and English, Kim apparently really struggled to build relationships with the other players, but not only does Go have more experience in Thailand, he knows a fair few of his new teammates already. Rochela, Nitipong, Bodin, Arthit, Yossawat and new arrival Sansern all enjoyed stints at Buriram during Go’s stay with the champs, meaning that Go will have plenty of familiar faces to help him settle in.

 

A Word of Warning

And a word of caution, because whilst I’m of the opinion that Go will be more successful with Port than Kim was, Port are still losing one of their most effective performers of last season. Kim was even my vote for The Sandpit Writers’ Player of the Year in 2018, and I think Port will really miss his fantastic vision and range of passing. It ended up being something that we grew accustomed to, but those long, raking diagonal passes that Kim specialized in will be difficult to replace, and Port will have to adapt their style and tactics accordingly.

I fondly remember Kim, almost certainly operating off the cuff, dropping back in to a sweeper position when Port had the ball and pointing at Rochela and Dolah to make a back three that allowed Port’s full backs to bomb forward safely. You could tell me it was Jadet’s idea and I would have no way to disprove it, but I’m just not buying it. That was all Kim.

 

The Portlist 3: Ranking The Heroes

 

Port’s perfect start to the 2018 season, featuring a 3-0 victory against Pattaya and a stunning 2-0 away victory against fierce rivals Muangthong, has seen one player gain 6 places in the Portlist. Port B also got off to a winning start, overcoming Dome FC 3-1, meaning a few of their key players make their Portlist debuts.

 


 

1 (1) Dragan Boskovic

Coming with such a hefty price tag, Boskovic went in to his competitive Port debut with a point to prove. One cheeky nutmeg and a stunning top-corner finish later, point proven. Dragan had a bit of a tougher time against Muangthong, but although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, his hard work led to opportunities for his teammates. So far so good for the 50 million baht man.

2 (3) Kim Sung Hwan

Kim had to wait a little longer for his debut, but when the time came the Korean showed just what he can bring to this team. Just as valuable as Kim’s own considerable abilities on the ball are what he does off the ball, directing proceedings in the middle of the park and demanding the best out of his teammates.

3 (2) David Rochela

Yes, it’s a bit mental that after 2 clean sheets and 2 superb performances Rochela has slipped a place in the Portlist. Besides his rather tame penalty against Pattaya he certainly hasn’t done much wrong, but if credit is going to be given for Port’s improved defensive performances, I’m more inclined to give it to the newer arrivals, who seem to have upped the ante and inspired the older heads to raise their game.

4 (4) Sergio Suarez

He played well against Pattaya, not so well against Muangthong, but most importantly he scored against both. With defenses focusing more of their energy on keeping Boskovic quiet, Suarez is taking full advantage by popping up unmarked in the box and scoring simple goals. Long may it continue!

5 (5) Pakorn Prempak

Pakorn was upstaged a little by Nurul on the opening day, but he held on to his spot on the right wing. The Midfield Monk then more than vindicated Jadet’s faith with a superb performance against Muangthong. An assist for the first goal and several dangerous raids forward indicate that Pakorn’s superb form has carried through to 2018.

6 (6) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Two games and two feisty, effective performances from Siwakorn in the middle of the park. Still up there as one of Port’s most important players.

7 (9) Kevin Deeromram

Kevin must get a sizable chunk of the credit for Port’s improved defensive displays, but it was his raids down the left wing that really caught the eye against Muangthong. With right-footed Nurul often opting to drift inside, Kevin has been hugging the touchline and finding plenty of space from which to deliver dangerous balls in to the box.

8 (8) Nitipong Selanon

I’m the one who writes this list, and I’m still not sure why Nitipong is only at number eight. He put in another couple of solid displays and provided a composed assist for Port’s second goal against Muangthong.

9 (7) Nurul Sriyankem

Nurul was outstanding against Pattaya when given a chance on the right hand side, but he hasn’t really taken to his new role on the left. He struggled to get in to the game against Muangthong, and his final ball was found wanting on numerous occasions. Given time Nurul will surely shine, but he’s slipping a couple of places on the Portlist for now.

10 (16) Worawut Srisupha

The big climber on the Portlist after a penalty save against Pattaya and an official Man of the Match award against Muangthong. If Worawut continues to stop everything that comes his way ans the defence start to feel comfortable with him dealing with crosses then Rattanai could find himself spending a lot of time on the bench. What an improvement!

11 (11) Todsapol Lated

Todsapol’s performances probably merit a higher placing than number 11, but his injury on Saturday reminded us how fragile he is. Fortunately his injury is not serious, and he is apparently in contention to start against Ratchaburi next week.

12 (12) Bodin Phala

Bodin may not have started a game yet, but his performance off the bench against Pattaya put him firmly in contention for starts in the future. Also, apparently the lad can take a free kick…

13 (15) Elias Dolah

Called on to replace the injured Todsapol against Muangthong, Dolah didn’t put in a mistake-free performance but he did enough to keep the extremely dangerous Jaja quiet in a tough physical contest. That’s what he’s there for.

14 (13) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

Against Pattaya, Adisorn showed why he is still a good option in defensive midfield with a typically high-energy, combative performance. He may not challenge Kim for his place, but he will prove useful this season, as he showed by coming off the bench to shore up the midfield against Muangthong.

15 (10) Rattanai Songsangchan

Despite returning to fitness and getting a place on the bench for the first time against Muangthong, Worawut’s performances must have made him undroppable for now.

16 (14) Arthit Butjinda

Played a few minutes against Pattaya but was not called on against Muangthong.

17 (17) Terens Puhiri

Came on against Pattaya but didn’t get a touch of the ball. Flash must wait patiently, and take his chance when it comes.

18 (18) Meechok Marhasarunukun

With Nitipong performing so consistently, Meechok is a distant second choice at right back.

19 (19) Panpanpong Pinkong

As is Panpanpong at left back.

20 (21) Athibordee Atirat

Athibordee has made it on to the new nine man bench for both of the opening games. Just.

21 (20) Worawut Namvech

The young centre back got a place on the bench against Pattaya but was in the stands against Muangthong.

22 (22) Pummared Kladkleep

Very much a squad player this season, although he is probably only one injury from the bench.

23 (23) Chakrit Rawanprakone

As is Chakrit.

24 (24) Jetjinn Sriprach

And Jetjinn.

25 (25) Watchara Buathong

And Watchara.

26 (NE) Chaowala Sriarwut

Announced his arrival at Port B with a brace and an assist from midfield against Dome FC. One of the goals was a peach as well! On top of that, Chaowala was named one of the ‘Top 5 Rising Stars of the Thai League 2018‘ by Siam Sport. Watch out for this lad!

27 (NE) Partchya Katethip

The other goalscorer, getting on the end of Chaowala’s cross to head home from close range. Partchya impressed me in the 2017 Coke Cup, and seems to be carrying on his good form for Port B.

28 (NE) Danudet Treemongkonchok

Trained with the Port first team in 2017 pre-season, and captained Port B in their opening day victory.

29 (27) Chanayut Jejue

Started for Port B, but will need to rack up some goals to stay on the Portlist much longer.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

You know what, mate? If you fancy extending your police training a little longer I don’t think any of us would mind…

 

Out Of Leo: Chiang Rai 5-3 Port (after penalty shootout)

 

Port exited the pre-season Leo Cup in the first round, as Chiang Rai showed more composure at the death to win 5-3 on penalties. In a match that you could have been forgiven for thinking would be a battle between two of the top strikers in Thai football – last season’s top scorer Boskovic and all-time top scorer Cleiton – neither side could break the deadlock, despite Port having the better of the action for most of the game. As there weren’t a great many incidents of note, I won’t bother with a blow-by-blow account of the action but rather give my impressions on some of Port’s key men.

 

Suarez or Nebihi?

Jadet went for a curious line-up in the first half, picking four foreigners who will not be allowed to play together in T1 next season. Rochela (22) and Boskovic (10) are of course nailed on certainties to be in the T1 squad next season, but only one of Nebihi (14) and Suarez (5) will be joining them. Jadet picked both – presumably to see which one would stake the stronger claim – and Nebihi responded just the way his manager would have hoped for. A natural number 10 if there ever was one, Nebihi was gliding past defenders at will, his long strides and robust frame presenting a problem the Chiang Rai defence could only really answer by fouling him. Whilst his final ball looked a little rusty – as did pretty much everyone’s – he did as much as Port fans could have hoped for to suggest that he will be an important addition to Port’s attacking arsenal. Suarez also looked lively, putting in a lot of strong challenges and showing some fancy footwork, but it was clear that his impact on the game was not as marked as that of Nebihi.

 

The Strikers

Boskovic didn’t have the debut he will have been hoping for, but there was really very little in the way of service for him to dig his teeth in to. Given a few more games to get his scoring touch back, Boskovic will find that extra yard and hone that first touch to hopefully become the deadly force he was in 2017. Fellow new signing Arthit Butjinda (29) similarly had very little to play with up front after he replaced the Montenegrin. He converted his penalty in the shoot-out with minimum fuss.

 

Kim Sung-Hwan

 

 

So that’s what a proper defensive midfielder looks like. Kim (8) was a rock in the centre of the park, showing spot-on positioning, quality passing and communicating well with his teammates. Not only does he look technically very sound, he also looks to be a natural leader, something which Port’s midfield has been severely lacking for the last few seasons. Going by the early evidence, Kim should be one of the very first names on Jadet’s team-sheet.

 

Siwakorn Spills Leo Cup

 

 

Not one of his finer afternoons. Siwakorn (16) was comfortably out-shone by both Suarez and Kim, got in to a scrap with an opposition player and then stepped up to take a penalty which more or less everyone except him thought he was going to miss. It’s going to be an interesting year for the man who is so highly thought of by his teammates. With Kim looking like a dominant, reliable defensive presence and Nebihi looking like the creative fulcrum of the team, Siwakorn has to carve himself out a role. Will he flourish alongside more accomplished teammates in the coming season, or struggle to justify his place in the team? It’s time to show that you belong at a top-5 club, Siv!

 

The Wingers

Port started with Pakorn (7) on the right and Nurul (31) on the left. Pakorn did as Pakorn does, delivering some dangerous balls, and shooting at every conceivable opportunity. Nurul looked very lively, but his touch deserted him a few times in promising positions, and he picked up a silly yellow card for a Siwakornesque shirt-pull. Expect much, much better from Nurul in coming friendlies.

 

 

In the second half, new Indonesian dynamo Terens (27) replaced Pakorn on the right, and Bodin replaced Nurul on the left. Bodin (15) played a part in some promising breaks, but was a little slow to release the pass at times. Terens had one chance to stretch his little legs, and gave Port fans an exciting glimpse of his frankly ridiculous pace. He should be a regular feature off the bench in 2018.

 

The Defence

Not much to report here, and that is probably a good thing. Nitipong (34) looked as tough and energetic as ever, Rochela and Todsapol (6) were pretty solid despite a couple of lapses of concentration which went un-punished, and Panpanpong (19) was… well, Panpanpong. There was the usual wondering forward and leaving space behind, which may well be a very bad idea indeed in 2018. With either Nurul or Pakorn likely to be on the left wing, Panpanpong must understand that he can’t afford to leave 5 foot 4 Nurul or own-goal maestro Pakorn to do his dirty work for him. Surprisingly, Jadet replaced Panpanpong with Jetjinn (11) rather than Yossawat (28) in the second half. We don’t know what Yossawat has done to deserve being consistently overlooked, but his treatment by management is beginning to remind me an awful lot of Tatchanon last season. Jetjinn’s most notable contribution was an absolutely abominable freekick which flew a good couple of meters above everyone’s head and out of play.

 

The Penalty Takers

1) Rochela. The only surprise was that he put it in the bottom left rather than the bottom right.

2) Suarez. His second cheeky penalty in as many games. Went for the Panenka and dispatched it with aplomb.

3) Arthit. Sent the ‘keeper the wrong way, so the fact that he didn’t find the corner didn’t matter.

4) Siwakorn. Hands up if you thought Siwakorn was going to miss. Yep, me too. Next time let players who can actually shoot do the shooting, eh Siv?

5) Kim. You don’t need to be able to speak Korean to understand an extremely confident nod when asked if you’re going to take a penalty, and number 5 to indicate that you’re fine with a bit of pressure. Unfortunately his penalty was not required, with Victor dispatching Chiang Rai’s decisive spot-kick to end the tie.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

He may have only played half the game, but what a half it was. Nebihi will add strength, height, guile and no little amount of skill to Port’s forward line in 2018. Honourable mentions go to Kim, who didn’t put a foot wrong in defensive midfield, and Nitipong who looks like he’s spent his holiday training even harder than usual.