In 2020, 23-year-old winger Jaroensak made his senior national team debut, finished as the top scorer at the AFC U23 Championship and is currently second in the Thai League’s assist charts with seven to his name.
Domestic Thai League powerhouses are now in the hunt for him, while fans are hoping he is the next one to make to jump to the J1 League. But what exactly makes Jaroensak Wonggorn so dangerous and how can he realise his full potential?
On a quiet night in Bang Phli, we said goodbye to 2020 on the final football weekend of the year with a 9-goal-thriller between Samut Prakan City and Port FC. The home side scored twice in the opening 10 minutes before finishing the game as 6-3 winners – Jaroensak Wonggorn earning a well-deserved Man of the Match award thanks to his goal and 2 assists.
According to SMMSPORT, Port FC chairwoman, Nualphan Lamsam, is already preparing a luxurious bid for the man who ended her clubs’ 10-match winning streak. Jaroensak, meanwhile, has reassured the Sea Fang supporter that he is happy where is, although Japan is his dream destination.
“I am trying. Day in, day out. It’s all about practice, practice and practice, just in case the chance [to play in the J1 League] ever arises” Jaroensak told Changsuek after his eye-catching performance “I don’t know if it’s possible but, for sure, I’ll give it my best to be there.”
By examining his goals and assists we can paint a better picture of Jaroensak’s game and clearly identify his strengths, weaknesses as well as areas to improve. Thus, hopefully, we can understand the hype surrounding Jaroensak, his rise to prominence over the past year and whether or not he’s the next big thing Thai fans are hoping him to be.
*Taking into account his stats and record from the 2020 Thai League season, up until Matchday 16, and the 2020 AFC U23 Championship only.
Strength – A nightmare for all left-backs
One obvious quality everyone notices right-away about Jaroensak is his almost untouchable pace with and without the ball; thus it is no surprise that he is an exceptional carrier of the ball, especially in counter-attacking situations.
Take for example his assists against PT Prachuap FC and Port FC, matchday 7 and 16 respectively, where Jaroensak receives the ball on the halfway line, turns and sprints towards the opponent’s goal, before laying off a simple pass for the assist. The one against PT Prachuap FC is particularly frightening as it only took Jaroensak 5 seconds to reach the PT Prachuap FC’s penalty box from the halfway line.
Jaroensak is a difference-maker in open play as evidenced by the fact that 10 out of 12 of goals and assists (GA) for Thailand U23 and Samut Prakan City in 2020 came from open play. From 10 open-play GA, 3 came from the central area, 3 from the central-right area, 3 from the right flank area and only 1 from the left flank. This shows Jaroensak’s effectiveness on the right side, where he is predominantly used by Masatada Ishii and Akira Nishino at the club and national level respectively.
From his 10 open-play GA, I would count 7 of them as counter-attacking situations. Further demonstrating Jaroensak’s potency on the break.
Out of Jaroensak’s 7 counter-attacks, 4 began with a through ball into space, behind the defensive line – 3 meeting him at the central-right area and 1 on the right flank, showing Jaroensak’s understanding of space, how to exploit said space with his speed and his teammates’ willingness to release Jaroensak behind.
A great example of Jaroensak receiving through balls in counter-attacking situations are his 2 goals against Bahrain in the group stage of the AFC U23 Championship.
Strength – Classic traits in the modern game
As a winger who plays on the same side as his stronger right-foot, it’s difficult for Jaroensak act as an inside-forward (i.e Arjen Robben or Mohamed Salah). Instead, Jaroensak thrive as somewhat of a classical winger in the modern game. He hugs the touchline, looks to beat opponent in one on one duel and never shy to put a cross into the box.
So far, Jaroensak has notched up 4 assists from crosses. His first cross-assist came on matchday 7, an in-swinging floated ball from the left flank – this is currently Jaroensak’s only open play assist from the left flank. His 2nd and 3rd cross-assists came against BG Pathum United (matchday 9), beating a man before the delivery for the former and low-cross following a quickly taken free-kick for the latter.
The 4th happened in the latest match against Port FC – Jaroensak picked up a loose ball in the wide-right position, and with time and space, as able to find the head of his teammate.
Interestingly, 3 out of 4 of Jaroensak’s cross-assists were aimed at the central/6-yard box area and, excluding the quick set play against BG Pathum United, all 3 of them were floated deliveries. This indicates Jaroensak’s preferred “target area” (central/6-yard) and his efficacy when it comes to crosses…but also hint at limitations in his game.
Weakness – One-dimensional winger or a specialist?
Continuing on the theme of width and crosses, it is slightly worrying that, through 2020, Jaroensak has only managed 1 open play assists from the left flank and 1 assist via his weaker left foot.
This mostly due to the fact that coaches prefer Jaroensak as a right-winger – which in itself is slightly strange considering nowadays wide attackers are often fielded on the opposite flank to their strong foot in order to cut inside.
Why Jaroensak is favoured on the right and disregarded on the left might be down to his pace and means of getting past an opponent. Due to his speed, it is evidently clear Jaroensak never really had to learn the art of shaking off an opponent. In a one-on-one duel, he doesn’t deceive defenders with a body feint or try to shake them off with changes in direction. He can simply beat them with pace and acceleration.
This technique works fine on the right flank as Jaroensak, facing the opponent’s end, can sprint at almost full pace and barely has to adjust his body angle before delivering the cross. The defender, on the other hand, often has to approach Jaroensak at a diagonal or right angle before having to slow down to avoid simply clattering into Jaroensak. The approaching defender is thereby at a disadvantage, which allows Jaroensak to execute his winger role to great effect.
Having said that, put Jaroensak on the left flank and it’s a whole new ball game. His left-foot is, to put it bluntly, almost useless for crossing, so the same technique wouldn’t work here. This forces Jaroensak inside where he often runs into a cul-de-sac.
Part of the secret to Jaroensak’s speed and acceleration is his body posture, upper body strength. But this comes with a trade-off for close-control ability in tight spaces. Have him surrounded in the middle of the park and Jaroensak will lose the ball more often than not. 0 goals or assists in open play from the central-left area through the entire year is further evidence of shortcoming in close-control ability.
Because of this, most coaches simply avoid Jaroensak’s weakness by fielding him almost exclusively as a right-winger and as a result, making him somewhat one-dimensional but also a potent specialist at the same time.
Weakness – Shooting technique hinders his one-on-one ability
As we’ve previously established, Jaroensak is a massive threat on the counter, especially when exploiting spaces. He is often placed as the furthest man forward when defending set-pieces, ready to hit the opponent on the break. However, Jaroensak as only scored 1 goal in one-on-one situations (his first goal against Bahrain in the AFC U23 Championship) – you’d expect to more from someone with his playing profile.
Jaroensak’s shooting technique is his biggest issue when converting chances. All but 1 of his goals in 2020, including a penalty, are struck with power – making contact with the ball in the mid-foot area. But with more power, comes less accuracy.
Speaking of which, where he aims his shot is another major factor that hinders Jaroensak’s finishing. Take for example his goal against Buriram United (matchday 13), where he was lucky that the power in his shot was enough to beat Siwarak Tedsungnoen from an extremely tight angle. Or his goal against Port FC (matchday 16), where he beat Worawut Srisupa from outside the box.
In both instances, the keeper already has their near post protected. Whether Jaroensak aims high or low, they should be able to save it 9 times out of 10.
So was Jaroensak right to try his luck? Probably not. They are 2 beautiful goals but it’s the normal ones, and art of getting them consistently, that will elevate Jaroensak to the next level. His speed will earn him goal-scoring chances but Jaroensak can’t rely on whacking it into an area that doesn’t make the keeper work, and hope his shot is powerful enough to go in.
Improvement – Take it slowly
Excluding one penalty, all goals scored by Jaroensak came from the right side of the pitch – the half he spent most playing time in. We also know teammates often look for his run in behind the opposition defence. Therefore, to improve Jaroensak’s conversion rate, he should place his shot instead of blasting it with full-force.
When approaching the opponent’s goal from the side, it’s more effective to aim for the far post since it forces the keeper to reach out and actually make the save. A low shot is ideal since it urges the keeper to also drop to the ground while at full stretch – tough to react in time.
An exciting anomaly amongst Jaroensak’s goals is his second against Bahrain (AFC U23 Championship) where he went through on goal and delicately chipped into the net. His technique when lifting the ball was nice but what gets me excited was how Jaroensak slowed down his run just slightly and picked out his spot, before taking the shot. This hinted that, through time and practice, Jaroensak could gain composure in front of goal and consequently raise his end product.
Improvement – Get in the box!
As a winger who relies on pace and crossing ability, Jaroensak tends to hug the touchline, staying as wide as possible when the team control possession in order to stretch out the opponent’s defensive formation. While this positional sense allowed Jaroensak to utilize his strengths as a tool for creating assists, it held back his potential as a goal scorer.
For example, many world class attackers (such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi) started out as wide players, but as they grew, their roles evolved into being inside forwards – allowing them to attacking oppositions where it hurts. The same applies to Jaroensak – to reach his full potential, he must be able to make an impact “inside” of the pitch.
We’ve established that converting Jaroensak to a left-winger might not an effective option but there is another solution and that is to “move” into central area…from the right flank. With his acceleration, Jaroensak should be more assertive in his attempts to get on the end of crosses or cutbacks from the left flank.
Take, for example, his first assist of the campaign in the away fixture to Port FC (matchday 2) where Jaroensak, playing wide, as usual, made a darting run into the 6-yard box and got on the end of left-back Ernesto Phumipha’s cutback. Jaroensak’s couldn’t get the connection right on the shot but, lucky enough, the ball ricochet to Chayawat Srinawong who finishes from point-blank range.
Unfortunately, we don’t see enough of these movements from Jaroensak, but hopefully things will change for the better, now that Toti has joined Samut Prakan from BG Pathum United.
The Spanish midfielder produced a stellar Samut Prakan debut in the victory over Port FC, operating as a left-winger with Ernesto Phumipha overlapping from behind. Compared to other left-wingers in Samut Prakan’s squad, Toti is more adept in link-up play and would often drift inward into the inside-left channel, operating as an extra midfield in possession. Here, Toti could play one of his signature pass, a looping cross over the top of the defence aim at the far post.
In this hypothetical scenario, Jaroensak could still play as an out-and-out winger. All he has to change is make more darting runs into the box. He’s already got a decent understanding of space and abundance of speed and acceleration to make it work.
Is Jaroensak Wonggorn ready for the J League?
With Kawin Thamsatchanan and Teerasil Dangda leaving Japan, the J League will no doubt be looking to replacement due to the audience Thai players brought along. Still, the player must, simply, be good enough.
Jaroensak is already a fan-favourite amongst the Thai supporters, meaning he possess plenty of marketing value. Having Masatada Ishii as his coach also means he could give a good reference if any Japanese clubs were to enquire about Jaroensak.
Problem is, Jaroensak is yet to complete a full season as his team’s talisman. He had a break through year with Surapong Kongthep and Tetsuya Murayama in 2019 and followed that with an excellent half-season with Ishii. Even so, it may not be enough. Thai players such as Chanathip Songkrasin (Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo) and Theerathon Bunmathan (Yokohama F. Marinos) both had, at least, 1 strong season domestically and a eye-catching showing in the AFC Champions League.
Luckily for Jaroensak, time is on his side, and he’s got an abundance of potential. He’s playing at a club that values consistency and with a quality head coach who’s given the freedom to work. Jaroensak has already shown in the past year that he can raise his game. All we hope for is for him to continue and, fingers crossed, he gets his dream move abroad…in the near future.