Nottingham Forest smashed their transfer record last season to bring in Joao Carvalho from Benfica for £13.1 million. After a successful season settling into the squad and his new surroundings, is this the time he can really influence Forest’s play and help return them to the Premier League?
Forest have spent 20 long seasons out of the Premier League, but they have started strongly under Sabri Lamouchi as they have not lost since the opening day of the season. After such a strong start to the season, Forest are fourth favourites to top the division in the Championship football betting.
Joao Carvalho hasn’t had much time to showcase his true talent in Lamouchi’s new-look side, having spent little over two months recovering from an injury sustained during a pre-season match against Alfreton Town. But with Forest now sitting at the right end of the table for the first time in a long time, Carvalho will be looking to prove once against this campaign why Forest spent big money to bring him to the City Ground.
Last season, Carvalho conjured up eight assists and scored on four occasions, forming a solid relationship with Forest’s main striker, Lewis Grabban. Occupying the number 10 position in behind the striker, the 22-year-old has the freedom to find space and pick out attacking players.
He was immediately adored by the fans, but once Aitor Karanka left the club at Christmas, Carvalho fell down the pecking order under Martin O’Neill. However, Forest fell down the table as the season drew to a close and the decision to drop Carvalho severely hindered Forest’s promotion push, which inevitably cost O’Neill his job.
Lamouchi came in the door as a result, an unknown manager to many Forest fans, but straight away he recognised Carvalho’s qualities and has made him an integral part of his team since recovering from his injury. The former Portuguese U-21 creative player does face some stiff competition though, as Lamouchi spent two million euros to bring in Tiago Silva from Feirense during the summer. Silva has started life brightly in the Championship as well, having never played in England before.
But so far, the competition looks healthy between the two Portuguese players, and Lamouchi will be relishing the two battling between themselves to be in his chosen eleven. Carvalho’s hefty price tag demands quality performances from the fans - there is no denying that. But Carvalho has adapted to the English game very well and will no doubt be a key asset if Forest are to be successful this season.
Gil Dias and Diogo Goncalves were two young Portuguese players brought in last season under Karanka at the same time as Carvalho, but both endured dismal campaigns. Both came with a lot of promise and hope as well but never succeeded, which goes to show how well Carvalho has been able to relish the challenge in England.
If Forest are unable to achieve promotion by the end of the season, there is bound to be plenty of admirers across Europe looking to lure their record signing away from the City Ground - and Lamouchi will be aware of this. But for now, Carvalho is very much a Forest player and will be a key part of their success this season.