If there is one player in Wednesday’s ranks who Leeds United’s porous defence will be fearful of at Elland Road tomorrow, it is Lucas Joao.
The striker, capped twice by the Portugal national team, has been one of the few shining lights in a wretched season for the Owls.
Gary Rowett hit the nail on the head when he described Joao as “very unpredictable” after Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over his Derby County side at Hillsborough in mid-February. Joao absolutely tormented the Rams on the night with his pace, power and skill and he deservedly bagged a fine brace. As Derby boss Rowett admitted post-match, his team struggled to contain Joao.
Rowett said: “I thought Joao was excellent. At times he was unplayable.”
You do get the impression sometimes when watching Joao in action that he doesn’t always know what he’s going to do when he receives the ball. He must be a nightmare to play with and against as you can never be quite sure what he’s going to do from one minute to the next.
But when he is in the mood, Joao is a handful. He has bags of ability and can create or score a goal out of nothing. His finishing has improved and so has his decision-making. He shields the ball better now and added more end product to his game. Joao is Wednesday’s second top-scorer behind Gary Hooper with seven goals.
Injuries have left boss Jos Luhukay short of options up front but Joao has stepped up to the plate and seized his opportunity to impress, starting eight of the Dutchman’s 11 Championship matches in charge. Under Luhukay’s predecessors Carlos Carvalhal and Lee Bullen, Joao only begun three of a possible 26 fixtures.
A combination of fatigue and niggling injuries have meant Joao has been unable to start every single match under Luhukay.
But whether he has played from the start or come off the bench in recent months, Joao has brought energy and menace to the Owls’ forward line. It is frightening to think where Wednesday would be without Joao’s goals and all round contribution.
At 24, Joao is still developing and there are plenty of areas where he can improve. Given his size, he should be capable of physically bullying centre-halves. It would be nice to see him be a bit more aggressive in certain situations. Perhaps that will come with experience and an extended run in the team.
Joao is a talent, though, and Luhukay appears to be getting the best out of him on a more consistent basis.
Joao offers something different to the rest of the Owls’ attack with his ability to run in behind.
He has a little over 15 months of his Wednesday contract left to run. Joao is finally fulfilling his true potential so the Owls should now be seriously looking at tying him down to a new deal.