In the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, Real Madrid left winger Vinicius Junior scored three goals in LaLiga. Last season, his xG missed (-3.5) was higher than his goal tally, per FBRef.com. Although Madridistas were full of praise for his dribbling skills and passion, they were baffled by how he would miss the easiest chances.
Vinicius would seem to take an eternity to decide to shoot, and he was never rooted in the right position to finish the chance. The Brazilian winger would seemingly second-guess himself as he dribbled, shifting his feet around until he tripped over himself, tamely struck the ball at the keeper, or enabled a defender to recover in time for an easy block.
But in just 55 minutes across two substitute appearances to start the 2021-2022 LaLiga campaign, Vinicius Junior has already netted thrice to equal his scoring tallies in each of the past two league seasons. Better yet, he looks like a much, much more confident man in front of goal.
Vini’s game-sealing goal against Alaves was taken like a striker, but his two vital equalizers at Levante were far more impressive. The first showed steely nerves he had been missing previously, as he carried the ball halfway up the pitch before using his weak foot to expertly slide the ball past the capable Aitor Fernandez at the far post. Last season, Vini would have done anything to use his right foot instead, and he may have even hesitated to the point where the defense would have caught up. But on Sunday night, Vinicius, with all the pressure on him, was no-nonsense.
Vinicius Junior’s second goal for Real Madrid at Levante encapsulated his legitimate improvement
His second goal was even more delightful. And yes, he 100 percent meant to do it. Vinicius deliciously curled the ball off his toe, bending it around Aitor from a tight angle as it kissed the post and went in for the 3-3. This goal was a peach, and it was the perfect technique. That means Vinicius had the presence of mind to position his body and select that technique, while having the clarity to execute this difficult finish.
I think that speaks volumes to how much Vinicius Junior has already improved in his approach in front of goal. With Vini, it was never a question of technique. It was a question of trusting himself and his technique, as opposed to overthinking and hesitating. And so far in 2021-2022, Vinicius has been as cool as the men who have roamed the Real Madrid attack in years past.
There are a couple of things to credit for Vini’s great start in front of goal. Firstly, we have to credit the man himself It has always been crystal clear that Vinicius loves Real Madrid and takes great pride in the process of becoming a star here. He has worked hard to improve his finishing, and Jose Luis Sanchez recently reported on El Chiringuito that Vini has even been working on the mental side of his game with a coach so that he can work under pressure.
Let’s stay on that topic for a bit and link that to the new manager, Carlo Ancelotti. Zinedine Zidane worked hard with Vini on his finishing, but having another legendary figure with a different approach has also paid dividends. Don Carlo said publicly that he gave Vinicius two instructions, which play to his strengths and have very much helped. He first told Vini to take fewer touches before shooting. And he then told Vini to always attack the penalty box.
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The right-footed 21-year-old has done exactly that. Yes, we have only seen two matches of the 2021-2022 season, but with the way Vini has changed his approach and with the production we are seeing (more than +2.0 xG already), there is reason to believe that the rapid improvement is real. It is all coming together for Vinicius Junior in his fourth year with Real Madrid.