Leoooooooooooo!!

He’s back for 2016, the Brazilian forward who became an instant hit with the fans due to his incessant running and his slightly non-Japanese penchant for going for goal often. Oh, and his eight league goals that helped FC Gifu avoid relegation to J3.

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Leo Mineiro signed for Gifu just before the start of last season, but didn’t make his debut until the end of April due to him not being in football shape – a diplomatic way of saying he wasn’t fit enough. When he did start to get fit and get into the team it became clear that he had something about him.

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He can’t actually walk on water though…..

The first thing that you notice about him is his pace. He has searing speed in the first 10m or so which allows him to get the jump on most defenders & midfielders in J2. It was no surprise to see his better performances coming away from where Gifu tended to play much more on the counter attack. Counter attacking play suits Leo’s style perfectly. Gifu were, by and large, under a lot of pressure away from home in J2 last year as teams looked to exploit the leaky defence. Leo, when he played, gave defenders & defensive midfielders something to think about before they pushed up too far because they had to account for his pace when long balls/passes were launched from deep positions. Once Leo had got in front of defenders, in a similar way to Nazarit when he was at the club, there was no catching him.

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Namba & Leo

The second thing that grabs you is his directness. As soon as he gets the ball, he starts to think about the goal. More often than not, he’ll try and find the nearest opposition player and try and take him on. When he doesn’t have the ball, he’ll tend to drift to the left or play right on the shoulder of the last defender. When he plays on the last defender, he’s basically relying on either Keiji Takachi or Koya Kazama to be able to feed him the ball. As mentioned before, it tends to work better away from home because defences will usually play a higher line and that gives Leo more space to run into. When he drifts to the left, it doesn’t always work for him as he tends to run at people rather than past them, and that doesn’t quite match his strengths.

 

Eight goals from 102 shots (per football lab) suggests that he isn’t afraid to shoot, but should probably score more. That 8 from 102 represents a chance conversion rate of 7.8%. To put that into some kind of context, the following are the chance conversion rates of the five leading goalscorers in J2 last year:

  • Jay Bothroyd – 13.7%
  • Dragan Mrdja – 17.9%
  • Rui Komatsu – 22.8%
  • Adailton – 14%
  • Masashi Oguro – 15.5%

So, if there was one thing I’d like to see from Leo next year, it is to get that conversion rate up to around where Jay Bothroyd’s was in 2015. If he does that, he could be in for a stellar season. He can finish – witness his cool finish against Kosuke Nakamura, easily the best ‘keeper in J2 last year, in Gifu’s season finale when he clipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper. That is a skill that good, confident strikers possess. He just needs to show that composure more often.

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What are realistic expectations for Leo Mineiro in 2016? If he stays fit, which he wasn’t for Gifu at times throughout the season – especially after suffering a knee injury which kept him out for 6 weeks or so in the summer, he should hit double figures and I think that he could realistically hit 15/16 goals – double his 2015 tally. It depends on a number of things, but one good thing going for him is the retention of Hiroaki Namba, Keiji Takachi & Koya Kazama. He pairs well with Namba (although I expect Namba’s role to lessen this year) and having a full preseason to work with Takachi & Kazama on the timing of runs and positioning will only stand him in good stead.

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His smile is infectious (except when he gets fouled, then his face contorts first in pain, and then into something resembling a cross between shock and exasperation) and he gives the whole club a lift when he is around and on his game. Here’s to a great season for FC Gifu’s very own lion.

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More of this next year please, Leo!

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