(Leandro nets a brace in Gamba Osaka’s 5-0 mauling of Urawa Red Diamonds at the Saitama Stadium on Matchday 26, his second an exquisite, improvised flick coming in the 60th minute)
On 3 December 2012, Hisato Sato of Sanfrecce Hiroshima was very fittingly awarded the J.League MVP, Top Scorer and Individual Fair Play awards, the culmination of an excellent season and evening for both player and squad, as Hajime Moriyasu collected the Manager of the Year award, Toshihiro Aoyama accepted the Team Fair Play award, and three squad members in addition to Sato and Aoyama were named to the 2012 J.League Best XI.
However, one name in particular was noticeable by its inclusion in the team selection for the wrong reasons, Vegalta Sendai forward Wilson bafflingly chosen when several candidates appeared more worthy of selection. This analysis looks at the players to have scored a minimum of ten goals in the 2012 season, and ranks them on the basis of a number of key criteria, most notably goals scored per minute of playing time, first goal scored as a percentage of team goals and shots to conversion ratio. The conclusion confirms the names of two players who would be worthier candidates to join Sato and Sagan Tosu’s Yohei Toyoda in completing the forward line.
* – Team Goals for Leandro has been calculated from Matchday Nineteen.
The most easily recognisable accomplishment is that of Leandro, who significantly out-performs his peers across several categories. Scoring with nearly 30% of his shots, with a scoring rate of 0.93 goals per appearance and taking merely 93 minutes to add to his account, the only area in which he fails to rank in first place is in his relative failure to have opened the scoring for Gamba, six players including Hisato Sato and Toyoda placing above him. Taking the factors as whole, on a statistical basis Leandro is certainly the best forward in the division this year. The issue for the Suita side becomes whether they have the means to make his loan from Al Sadd permanent, and whether the Brazilian has any desire to spend a year in the lower tier when a number of his colleagues are likely to seek new teams in Division 1.
Wilson, meanwhile, ranks behind teammate Shingo Akamine in totalled goals scored, minutes per goal (172 minutes, an effectual rate of one goal in less than every two games, compared to Wilson’s 211 minutes), and Vegalta’s number 28 possesses a better shot to conversion percentage and was first on his team’s scoresheet far more frequently. Precisely the same assessment applies to Kashiwa Reysol’s Masato Kudo (182 minutes, an effectial rate of one goal in just over every two games), who also equalled Wilson’s goal tally for the season, scored his side’s opening goal more frequently and boasts a marginally superior shot to conversion percentage.
Clearly, then, Wilson’s inclusion in the Best XI as a forward could not have been merely on goalscoring prowess alone, Leandro and Akamine both being statistically superior across the 2012 season. Leandro may view his failure to be selected as unfortunate, particularly as prior to his return Gamba had taken thirteen points from eighteen matches and were lying in seventeenth position, and yet with his addition the club took more points from its remaining matches than all bar three teams, including the eventual champions. While Gamba’s form upon his arrival cannot solely be attributed to his contribution, it appears strange that the effect of his return was overlooked in favour of a player who was not only not one of the best forwards in the division, but was also not the best forward in his own team.