Joao Carvalho has not kicked a competitive ball in anger for Nottingham Forest since May 5.

He has barely touched a ball at all in the time that has passed since the 2018-19 campaign came to a close.

Pre-season was started, but quickly ended.

Half an outing against Alfreton is all that the Portuguese playmaker was able to muster.

Some rough treatment left him nursing an ankle complaint and stuck in a protective boot.

Not a sight Reds fans wanted to see.

This summer was supposed to represent a fresh start for the 22-year-old.

Shackles seemingly put in place by Martin O’Neill were set to be broken.

Sabri Lamouchi, himself a creative midfielder in his day, appeared tailor-made as a coaching appointment for Carvalho.

The pair have had little time in which to get acquainted.

Experiment

 (Photo by Jon Hobley/ MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“I am so happy to work with him. We have not had one single session together previously,” Lamouchi has said in the Nottingham Post.

“I want to start to enjoy working with all of my players.”

A new man at the helm has been forced to experiment with other ball-players in a No. 10 post.

Most notably Carvalho’s fellow countryman Tiago Silva.

A fresh face at the City Ground has fared admirably enough through the opening weeks of 2019-20.

He even opened his goal account for the club in a Carabao Cup win over Fleetwood.

Encouraging, with the promise of more to come.

There is, however, a sense that Forest are still missing that sprinkling of magic dust.

The kind that Carvalho is capable of providing.

As is often the case with players of his ilk, they become even better players when they aren’t available.

Flaws can be forgiven, or forgotten, as a collective sense of longing builds.

Forest fans may not have too much longer to wait.

Carvalho is back on the training field and stepping up his rehabilitation.

Spark

 

Quite when he can expect to be seen out on the field again remains unclear.

Sooner rather than later is the hope for all concerned.

That is because the Reds are still crying out for that spark in the final third.

Chances across Championship outings against West Brom and Leeds have been few and far between.

If the likes of Lewis Grabban are to fire as intended, then somebody will need to provide the ammunition.

Joe Lolley is yet to burst into life this term, while another influx of fresh faces are still finding their feet.

Carvalho is one step ahead there, with a year in England under his belt, and has expressed a desire to better his numbers from last season and become a talismanic presence.

Lamouchi, an expectant fan base, Grabban, the tea lady, everyone needs substance to be delivered on those words.

Carvalho will not be a different player once finally back in contention.

He may not even be a better one than first arrived for a record-setting fee in 2018, but he does offer something different and the Reds are still crying out for those intangibles.