How to bring the best out of Joao Carvalho at Nottingham Forest?

That is a question currently turning over in the mind of many of those at the City Ground.

Having seen £13 million invested in the Portuguese, supporters want him out on the field.

To the majority, the 21-year-old is the man with the Midas touch.

He may not always deliver, but isn’t that often the case with mercurial No. 10s?

Sometimes you have to play them more in hope than expectation.

As things stand, Martin O’Neill is reluctant to take that gamble.

With a play-off race still being run, the Reds boss is favouring more reliable options.

He continues to be asked about Carvalho on a regular basis.

And the Northern Irishman is playing his hand as cautiously as you would expect.

Robust

(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Quizzed again on Forest’s record signing ahead of a home date with Hull City, O’Neill has said in the Nottingham Post: “I am not overly concerned about what players cannot do defensively, if things are really happening when you get on the ball. That is what creative players are there to do.

“So don’t worry too much about things defensively. Yes, of course, get back into position defensively. But you don’t have to be making robust tackles and such like.

“But when you have it, when you are on the ball – create something for the team. That is important.

“Obviously, when he was signed, that is what people saw in Joao. Even after the last five or six weeks, you – having seen the team all season – might have a better idea than myself.

“But when you are fully confident and you feel as though you can do anything, that can be important. He has good, natural talent and it is really important for us that he feels that he can contribute in an attacking sense.”

So, in order to get a regular run Carvalho has to show confidence and creativity.

Sounds fair enough.

It is, however, easy to argue that those two qualities are intrinsically linked.

You cannot have one without the other.

In order to be creative, you need to feel good about your game.

And for positivity to be achieved, you need to be playing.

If minutes are in short supply, how can confidence be built?

Playmakers, like strikers, need to work their way into form.

Being asked to deliver in the odd cameo off the bench is rarely going to be a recipe for success.

Ability

 

Carvalho, therefore, presents something of a conundrum.

O’Neill is recognising his ability and eager to take advantage of it, but is not seeing enough to roll the dice.

On the other side, Carvalho wants to play but has not delivered the end product expected of him.

Stalemate.

Where do we go from here?

That has become an almost impossible question to answer.

O’Neill’s preferred approach prioritises ball-winners, rather than ball-players, in the middle of the park.

Attacking support is then provided by more energetic types such as Joe Lolley, Matty Cash and Ben Osborn.

Carvalho?

Seemingly stuck among the substitutes and left to mull over a selection poser.