Port’s Foreign Signings – A Statistical Analysis

 

I was standing around in The Sandpit after the home game against Nakhon Ratchasima when, as often happens, an unusual claim was made that piqued my interest.

“Do you know how many foreign players Port have signed from clubs outside Thailand? One. Rolando Blackburn.”

Now, as with most unusual claims it was immediately obvious that this wasn’t accurate, but seeing as the club itself has almost certainly made no effort to analyze their own transfer dealings, I thought I’d do the hard yards for them and run some numbers.

What I ended up doing was a little more comprehensive than I originally intended. First, I used the three articles that myself and Marco had written (foreign strikers from 2009-12, foreign strikers from 2012-18, foreign midfielders from 2012-18) about Port signings and collated the data with a little help from Wikipedia and Transfermarkt. Then I found this excellent list of Thai League Foreign Players on Wikipedia which gave me a few even earlier players I’d never head of. Vietnamese defender Lương Trung Tuấn who joined Port in 2004, anyone?

I ultimately settled on a sample size of 53 foreign signings from which to draw my analysis. It’s not a huge number, but it’s an almost exhaustive list of foreign players who have joined Port since 2009 with a few notable extras from before that time period. Only a few players, for which I could not find sufficient information, were left out. I think with this number, drawing conclusions from differences of a few percentage points is probably not worthwhile, but we can be reasonably happy that some of the clear trends are unlikely to be anomalous.

There are only two data points I used, which were the nationality of the player and the country they played in immediately before joining Port. This basically gave me two separate groups of analysis:

  • The countries Port most commonly sign players from
  • The nationality of players that Port sign

Within these two groups, I separated my findings in to 3 sections.

  • Overall (the total %)
  • Before Pang (the % before Pang’s tenure)
  • With Pang (the % during Pang’s tenure)

So, what did I learn after messing around on Microsoft Excel for a couple of hours?

Well, it’s fair to say that Rolando Blackburn is not the only Port foreign player to have been signed from abroad. In fact, foreign players signed from abroad account for 62% of Port’s foreign signings. Before Pang’s tenure it was 65% and during Pang’s tenure the number drops slightly to 58%.

 

Overall62%
Before Pang65%
With Pang58%

 

What has changed somewhat is the areas from which Port have bought these players. Dealing with continents rather than individual countries makes more sense to me here, so here is the breakdown of the continents from which Port have signed their foreign players.

 

Foreign Players signed from Thai clubs

 

Overall38%
Before Pang35%
With Pang42%

 

Foreign Players signed from Asian clubs (not including Thailand)

 

Overall36%
Before Pang41%
With Pang26%

 

Foreign Players signed from South American clubs

 

Overall9%
Before Pang3%
With Pang21%

 

Foreign Players signed from European clubs

 

Overall13%
Before Pang15%
With Pang11%

 

 Foreign Players signed from African clubs

 

Overall4%
Before Pang6%
With Pang0%

 

Arranging the numbers differently shows the key trends more clearly.

 

Foreign players signed from…Before PangWith Pang
Thai clubs35%42%
Other Asian clubs41%26%
South American clubs3%21%
European clubs15%11%
African clubs6%0%

 

With Pang, Port have signed significantly more players from South America. Wagner Carioca, Renan Oliveira, Rodrigo Maranhao and Rolando Blackburn all signed for Port under Pang’s stewardship, whereas only the legendary Leandro Oliveira had signed directly from South America before. Even that signing comes with a massive asterisk, as Dusit Chalermsan, Port coach at the time, already had first hand knowledge of Leandro from his and Leandro’s earlier spells in Vietnam. He was a known quantity from his time spent in South East Asia, even though he stopped off in Brazil on his way from Vietnam to Thailand, and Dusit signed him with a view of building his team around the Brazilian maestro.

 

Rodrigo Maranhao, one of the stars of the 2016 promotion campaign

 

So, what conclusions can we draw from this? Does it mean Port have enacted some sort of scouting system under Pang to identify players in the Brazilian second and third tier who could be successful in Thailand? Stop sniggering at the back!

No, it’s a trend mirrored by the league as a whole. The number of foreign players in the league has fluctuated over the years due to quota changes, but ultimately the number of foreigners clubs can sign from any country has been cut markedly.

In 2014, teams could have six foreigners of any nationality in their squad, plus one additional player from an AFC country (6+1). In 2015, this was reduced to four from any nationality, plus one from an AFC country (4+1). In 2018 the number of foreign players from any country was cut further to three, plus a player from an AFC country and a player from an ASEAN country (3+1+1). In 2019, the current quota, teams can again have three players of any nationality, one from an AFC country and now three from ASEAN countries (3+1+3).

While the number of quality foreign imports has been decreasing, the amount of money available to be spent on them has increased, due to the growth of the league. This has led to the significant rise in the number of arrivals from South American clubs we see above, in place of those in financially weaker areas like Asian and African leagues. Port are simply following a trend which I’m pretty sure exists among most clubs, and the league as a whole.

 


 

The nationalities of the players Port have signed – our second set of numbers – really helps us complete the picture.

Footballers who end up plying their trade in Thailand are for the most part a nomadic bunch. A majority of African and South American players who have signed for Port have done so from outside the continent of their birth, so to better understand some of the fundamental changes in Port’s recruitment trends, let’s look at nationalities, arranged again by continent.

 

Foreign Players of Asian nationalities

 

Overall30%
Before Pang35%
With Pang21%

 

Foreign Players of South/Central American nationalities

 

Overall26%
Before Pang18%
With Pang42%

 

Foreign Players of European nationalities

 

Overall25%
Before Pang21%
With Pang32%

 

Foreign Players of Australasian nationalities

 

Overall4%
Before Pang3%
With Pang5%

 

 Foreign Players of African nationalities

 

Overall15%
Before Pang24%
With Pang0%

 

Again, let’s look at the same numbers in a different table.

 

Foreign players from…Before PangWith Pang
Asia35%21%
South/Central America18%42%
Europe21%32%
Australasia3%5%
Africa24%0%

 

The same trend plays out in these numbers, with a very clear uptick in the signing of South American players. This time it is also accompanied by an 11% increase in the signing of European players, which is another similarly more attractive demographic of players to clubs with more spending power.

With a marked increase in South American and European signings, we must also see decreases in other areas, and this is most stark in the signing of African players. Whilst it’s obvious to anyone who remembers watching football 5-10 years ago in Thailand that the number of African players has decreased significantly, Port not having signed a single African player in the Pang era is still surprising.

This season the biggest spenders in the league brought in Modibo Maiga, whilst mid-table Trat went for African players in all 3 of their foreign player slots. One of them, Lonsana Doumbouya, is the top scorer in the league, and overall there are still 9 African players plying their trade in T1, although surprisingly they are spread across just 4 teams. It seems unlikely to be an anomaly that Port have not signed a single African, but the reasons why this is the case are unclear with the data I have at my disposal.

 

Lonsana Doumbouya, Adefolarin Durosinmi and Bireme Diouf, all of Trat FC

 

Signings of Asian players have similarly seen a decline. Under the 6+1 quota system from 2014 and earlier, Port used to regularly have two or three South Koreans on the books, but with the quota change to 4+1 in 2015, most T1 teams scaled back and only had 1 Asian foreigner in their squad, with Port being no exception.

Since then the rules evolved again though, with one and then three new spots opening up to players from ASEAN countries. Under the 3+1+1 quota in 2018, Port used their ASEAN spot to sign Terens Puhiri of Indonesia, but Terens then returned to his former club and Port didn’t bring in another ASEAN player, Martin Steuble, until the mid-season break of 2019. At this point the quota had already changed to 3+1+3, with Port failing to take advantage of any of those ASEAN spots for the first half of the season. This has to be seen as a big oversight from Port, and next season we should really see a significant increase in ASEAN players joining the club, making full use of the 3 available quota spots. ASEAN leagues may be of a lower standard than T1, but the signing of Steuble has shown us that there are players capable of making an important contribution, even in a side pushing for the T1 title.

 

Conclusions

 

In drawing conclusions from Port’s transfer business, we have to be able to recognize who has been successful and who hasn’t. In our list of arrivals from Thai clubs in the Pang era, we see names like David Rochela, Sergio Suarez, Josimar, Dragan Boskovic and Go Seul-Ki. Names like Kayne Vincent, Thiago Cunha and Bajram Nebihi remind us that not all domestic deals have turned out as hoped, but for the most part the Thai market has yielded far more successful signings than the foreign market. There are examples of successful signings from abroad, such as Rodrigo Maranhao, Martin Steuble and Kim Sung-Hwan, but these are far outweighed by relative failures like Andrija Kaludjerovic, Serginho, Renan Oliveira, Matias Jadue and Asdrubal Padron.

 

Asdrubal Padron, who injury prevented from making a single appearance for Port

 

It looks very much as though we are doing 58% of our shopping in the less fruitful foreign market, and only 42% from the more predictable domestic market. This is a trend that must be addressed if we want to increase the consistency of our foreign acquisitions.

Another area I find surprising is the dramatic reduction in players from Africa, not just at Port but the league as a whole. John Baggio and Lonsana Doumbouya have been the poster boys in the last couple of seasons for how successful African players can still be in T1, but all four clubs who have African players on the books at the moment will be very happy with their contributions. Brazilians may have brought the league lots of flair and more than a few great players, but the standard of football in many African countries is still significantly superior to the standard in Thailand. There are still lots of players who could be brought in at relatively low cost for potentially great rewards.

 

John Baggio of Sukhothai

 

Both Baggio and Doumbouya are African players in the domestic market who, whilst they won’t come cheap, ought to be within Port’s price range in the coming off-season. We would do well to look hard at the possibility of signing both.

In the Asian market, Port should also be looking to increase the number of acquisitions of ASEAN players who can fill the remaining two quota spots which will be available, assuming that Steuble stays with Port next season. The signings of Michael Falkesgaard and Dang Van Lam, by Bangkok United and Muangthong respectively, have shown there are quality half-European goalkeepers available in this market. Also, the success of young Vietnamese players in international football should also be prompting T1 clubs to look in to the possibility of bringing some promising Vietnamese youngsters to Thailand. I don’t have enough knowledge of half-European half-ASEAN goalies or Vietnamese youngsters to suggest any names in particular, but a little scouting could really go a long way in finding top quality foreign players who could have a massive impact at Port.

 


 

Will the club will take heed of any of this, or run their own similar analysis in order to evaluate the success or otherwise of their transfer business? No, probably not. Will I now be able to say “I told you so” to no-one in particular next time we bring in a predictable flop from the Honduran third tier? Yes, yes I will.

 

Chainought: Port FC 4-0 Chainat Hornbill

Port soared to a second consecutive home win and clean sheet as they ripped apart the Chainat defense for a comprehensive 4-0 win.

The Hornbills flew into Bangkok nested firmly in the relegation zone but it was Port who looked to have crooked wings in the first 20 minutes of play. Chainat, fondly known across Thailand as the cheating bastards, showed initiative straight out the gate.

 

First half

 

Wednesday evening at the PAT always makes for a good night but from the outset it felt more like a friendly match. Long lines at the ticket box delayed the arrival of most supporters and those who managed to see kickoff were sitting down. Port were untidy and sluggish, giving the ball away at nearly every pass. Yet the class of our high priced attack nearly paid off in the fifth minute. Bodin’s (10) unrivaled speed got loose down the left flank and slid a square ball to Suarez, (5) whose blast from 12 yards smashed against the crossbar to no avail. A promising chance gone missing and the crowd would have to wait another thirty minutes for a similar opportunity.

Energized and fresh from the clean upcountry air, Chainat took control of possession and looked the better team going forward. A few careless tackles from both sides produced early yellows and an anxious feeling wafted across the stadium. In the 20th minute center back Todsapol (6) came out the wrong end of a good tackle with a sore lower back. Minutes later he was replaced by new boy Piyachanok (2), on loan from BG for his first action in Port colors. His initial touch brought jeers and laughter as he went through our own midfielder Go (8) to get to the ball.

Port continued to look ordinary after 30 minutes with the only real bright spot being the work ethic of right back Nitipong (34). He was all over the pitch and carried the load of the back four in the first half. Chainat’s large Brazilian striker Ricardo Santos (11) was fouled 40 yards from goal (he’s their only player I’ll mention by name because the others were insignificant from this point on). Not a big deal but he took issue with the foul, pushing the ref out of the way to scream in Nitipong’s face. Our brave little number 34 shrieked back with a vengeance and this seemed to ignite the crowd.

Having woken the sleeping giant, Chainat were now on the back foot. Midfielders Siwakorn (16) and Go played the ball into wide positions to spread the defense thin with Kevin (97) and Bodin running rings around their midfield. In the 42nd minute Suarez had two chances, only to shoot straight at the keeper on both attempts. Two minutes of added time and most had gone for a toilet break or to replenish a beer. Both teams hinted on a retreat to the locker room but Nitipong had other ideas. He played the ball forward and it skipped off a few heads before eventually getting to Bodin on the wing, a beautiful cross later and Go thumped a header to the back of the net to open the scoring. Halftime and relief was in the air.

 

Second half

 

Chainat came out of the locker room tattered and tired as they had put it all on the line before half time.  Port were passing at will and moving the ball to all corners of the field, but seemed to find all scoring chances coming from that aforementioned left wing position. Eight minutes into the half a moment of magic from Josimar (30) doubled the lead. Bodin tapped a quick square ball to Josimar who sent Bodin into the box with a back heal. Bodin again sent the ball square to Suarez. He chipped the ball into the six yard box to catch the end of Josimar’s run behind Bodin. Josimar volleyed with his left foot from an incredibly acute angle to beat the keeper for a wonderful goal.

Chances were now arriving every few minutes with Josimar nearly doubling his total on a few chances that seemed much easier than Port’s second goal. The boys were cruising at altitude when a poor pass from Suarez nearly saw Chainat cut the lead in half. Sumanya (11) and Blackburn (99) came on and made an immediate impact.  A little give and go between the two sent Blackburn into the box but he over ran the ball, Sumaya followed him in and cleaned up the mess sliding a left foot strike past the keeper for goal number 3.

 

 

The PAT was rocking deep into injury time and all eyes were again on Bodin down the wing.  His pass rolled across the top of the box, Blackburn dummied it and Suarez smashed a left foot laser to the top corner. Great result for a great hour of football. Port are in form and set out on an epic trip to Buriram in two weeks time. Two games to go, two points off the top, a cup final next month and a storybook season for the faithful of Klong Toey. What more could you ask for?

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

 

 

In his previous stint with Port, Josimar was always known to score in spurts. When one goal came, it was often followed by a month or more of confident, free-scoring play. Luckily for Port, Josimar seems to have hit a spurt with just a few more games remaining in the season. If Josimar can keep his form and his confidence up for three more games and bang in a few more finishes like the magnificent angled sledgehammer he clobbered in yesterday, Port are surely odds on to get our hands on some silverware!

 

Great Wall of Chainat: Port FC vs. Chainat Hornbill Preview

 

Against all the odds, Port have leaped back into the thick of the title race, sitting two points off the top with just three games remaining in the season. As a result, this game is going to be one of incredible stakes for both teams. While the Klongtoei side need a win in pursuit of their first league title, Chainat will also need three points to remain in T1 for a third consecutive season.

Port’s opponents have a transfer budget that would see them struggle to get out of T2, let alone survive in T1, and is roughly equal to the amount Port spent on signing Sumanya Purisai (11) from Bangkok United. However, the Hornbills have bridged the gap in quality with tactical discipline and a scouting team capable of unearthing gems from lower divisions. They have proven to be unlikely giant killers this season, taking three points off Buriram, Muangthong and Bangkok United at home with a varied press designed to stop teams from getting into their passing flow. With their desperate hunt for points, they are unlikely to roll over and will aim to get at Port’s heels with the same aggression.

 

The Manager

Dennis Amato

 

 

The catalyst behind the club’s success has been their coach, Dennis Amato. Formerly a youth coach at Bayern Munich, he was contacted by Chainat during his time as a scout running a training camp in Thailand. In his first season at the club, Amato turned a side barely hanging on to their promotion hopes into T2 champions, and did well to stay in the division despite the league’s downsizing which saw five teams get relegated last season.

His aim to play a pressing game to get in his opponents’ faces is an admirable pursuit considering the quality of his players, but has struggled against his fellow relegation battlers who tend to default to bus-parking when the going gets tough.

You can read a previous interview I conducted with him after this fixture last season for more information about his style and background.

 

Players to Watch

Ricardo Santos (11) – Brazil – Striker – Age 32

 

 

Unlike the other ageing Brazilian forwards in this league, Ricardo Santos offers an incredible amount to his team off the ball with pressing and selfless movement. Capable of finding the net as target man up front, Santos also runs the channels like someone half his size would, and is confident taking players on. I personally believe he is among the most underappreciated players in the league, and should be given far more credit for his off-ball sacrifice that has been crucial for his side this season.

 

Jaturapat Sattham (18) – Thailand – Left Back – Age 20

 

 

Port fans should definitely keep their eye on Jaturapat Sattham. A complete unknown before the start of the season, the 20-year-old put in a string of incredible performances, including a man-of-the-match shift in a 2-1 home victory against Buriram. In the injury-induced absence of Port’s Kevin Deeromram (97), Jaturapat has also established himself in the Thai U23 National team. The youngster has proven to be an invaluable asset to Chainat, and is already replicating those performances for the young War Elephants. Seeing Kevin and the man vying for his spot as Thailand’s most promising young left-back on the same pitch will be interesting.

 

Chatmongkol Thongkiri (22) – Thailand – Central Midfielder – Age 22

 

 

Another recently capped U23 international, Chatmongkol Thongkiri is the Hornbill’s engine room in the middle of midfield. While not as consistent as the aforementioned Jaturapat, he is a key player in the middle that Port will need to close down if they want to stop counter-attacks from being launched. He recently earned a call-up alongside Jaturapat for the upcoming 2019 SEA Games.

 

Port’s Team

 

The Klongtoei lions have been on fine form of late, following up an FA Cup semi-final win over Bangkok United with six points from six against Korat and Chiangmai.

However, this game will likely be a tougher task due to the absence of defensive stalwart Elias Dolah (4), who is out with a suspension. This likely means that Tanaboon (71) will partner Todsapol (6) in the back line.

In midfield, Go Seul-Ki (8) is likely to start alongside Siwakorn (16) and behind Sergio Suarez (5). In an incredibly unpopular opinion, I think this setup is problematic for a few reasons. Go is by far the most complete midfielder in the squad, and among the best in the league, but has been pigeon-holed in a defensive role due to the personal ambition of Siwakorn and his desire to involve himself in attacking play.

I’ve been a vocal critic of captain fantastic but he’s proven me wrong a few times this season. Ideally though, I’d have someone defensive behind Go, such as Fox Hunt academy graduate Anon Samakorn (20) – or Tanaboon, if Dolah was fit. This would allow Go to push into more dangerous areas and carry the ball beyond Chainat’s first line of pressure with a safety net behind him, and also allow Kevin Deeromram (97) to get up the left flank and expose Chainat’s weaker right side. But in reality there isn’t even a 1% chance of that happening. No point changing a winning formula, after all.

Here’s my predicted lineup for the match:

 

 

Prediction

 

Port are on solid form and played with confidence last time out. Should be a routine three points if the pressure of the title-race doesn’t overwhelm them. I expect the home side to collect all three points in a tight match.

 

Port 2-1 Chainat

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Music at 18:00 on Wednesday 2 October, 2019. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.