Football Tribe SEA Editor
Port and Buriram have made headlines in recent weeks with big-name acquisitions, which have got fans looking forward to the new season. To commemorate the joyous holiday season, I aim to ruin everyone’s fun and excitement with a hyper-critical take on why these signings haven’t met a set of unrealistically lofty expectations.
It is worth caveating this article by mentioning that I am not a qualified football coach, and I expect the coaches of the relevant teams to prove me wrong. In fact, I look forward to it, because the idea that criticisms from a college student can’t be addressed by the country’s top clubs is rather unsettling.
A second point that needs explanation is that I am admittedly judging this transfer window by incredibly high standards. I am of the belief that the tone of the season is often set by the quality of recruitment, and last season’s lackluster transfer window – particularly from the big sides – preceded similarly lackluster and inconsistent performances. I am eager to avoid a repeat of a season where 1.93 points per game average was enough to seal the title, which has been under-discussed and should be considered an embarrassment to the traditional “big teams.”
Port FC have continued their policy of signing players for their name and reputation rather than how they fit into the team. Many of their recent high-profile signings, such as Dragan Boskovic, Nurul Sriyankem and Sumanya Purisai, were signed on veins of good form and declined after being ‘misused’ at the PAT Stadium.
It would be unfair for me to malign the signing of Heberty, both because he is an undeniably good player and because any criticism I attempt to make will be immediately dismissed as partisan bias. A player of his talent will certainly make a positive impact, regardless of how the team is set up around him.
However, it bears reminding that the side desperately need an out-and-out striker, something that the club’s hierarchy was so acutely aware of last season that they sacrificed their best defender to bring in two of them. Now that the side have had sufficient time and resources to make the right pick, they choose a player who has consistently had his best performances playing alongside an out-and-out striker, not as one.
Port still have time to rectify this situation by using one of their foreigner slots to sign a striker, but this would most likely mean the departure of Sergio Suarez; something which the club has repeatedly attempted to avoid in the past and will most likely continue to do so.
Buriram United have also been making headlines in recent weeks, with the signing of South American strikers Ricardo Bueno and Bernardo Cuesta, and Korean defensive midfielder Jung Jae-Yong. While they certainly come to Thailand with big reputations, none of them address the root of the Thai Champions’ problems last season; the lack of a creative midfielder.
Last season, the Thunder Castle were continuously left frustrated when Hajime Hosogai was saddled with creative responsibility, and they ostracised a potentially perfect midfield partner for him in Luong Xuan Truong in favor of Rattanakorn Maikami, whose primary strengths are also defensive.
This also overburdened Supachok Sarachart for most of the season, and their decision to sign two strikers (as opposed to using one slot for a creative player) doesn’t particularly help the situation either. Perhaps part of the reason why no subsequent striker has managed to reach the figures that Diogo Luis Santo did at Buriram is because they don’t have the likes of Jakkaphan Kaewprom or Go Suel-Ki supporting them from midfield.
Bangkok United have arguably made the smartest investment by keeping ahold of their foreigners for another season, and Hajime Hosogai could add a level of stability to their midfield and bring quality still lacking in the team.
Muangthong United’s firesale seems like a necessary move as they’ve been engaging transfer market austerity to prop up extremely bloated wages to some members of their squad for a number of windows now. But after the second half of last season, fans can be forgiven for expecting a full-throttle chase of the title as opposed to yet another rebuild. Being able to do both at the same time requires incredible competence at both the coaching and administrative levels, and thus far I only have faith in the first half of that combination.
Admittedly, most fans aren’t looking for in depth-tactical answers with every single signing. Perhaps my entire take is simply an impatient one. But, unfortunately, it seems thus far that clubs are continuing to repeat the same mistakes of last season, which I think is worthy of discussion.
You can hear a wider discussion of transfer strategy with me and Port FC Supporter Tom Earls on his show, The Portcast.