Joao Carvalho let his feet do the talking against Middlesbrough and produced one of the finest performances by a Forest player in recent memory.
The 22-year-old has been a virtual outcast since Martin O’Neill took charge at the City Ground in January of this year, he’d only made a solitary start in the previous 16 matches prior to the arrival of Boro on Easter Monday.
However, rather than throw his toys from the pram, the Portuguese embraced his selection by producing a footballing masterclass. His movement, vision and creativity were simply breath-taking at times as he opened up the visitors’ defence at will.
From beginning to end he produced sublime, weighted passes interspersed with an array of nutmegs and pirouettes that left the likes of Aden Flint so disorientated that he looked like he was at Meadow Lane.
Equally refreshing was the formation and the success it brought with it, Martin O’Neill opted for wing backs to incorporate three centre halves. Whilst Matty Cash and Ben Osborn are not the most productive going forward, they have bags of energy and discipline which bodes well for such a role.
It was a day when absolutely everything went right for the Reds and naturally culminated in the best performance of the season to date. For the purpose of balance, Middlesbrough were shockingly bad considering they began proceedings in a play-off spot. The away side looked uninterested and lethargic as they simply tried to keep the goal count down by the final whistle. Remarkably, they still have the joint least goals conceded in the Championship.
So, it begs the question, why wait until now to unleash Carvalho and a formation that seems to work? Regarding Joao Carvalho; although I agree with keeping him out of the odd game due to his physique and integration into Championship football, I’m baffled as to why he’s been comprehensively overlooked for so long.
The system makes more sense though, O’Neill is 17 games into his tenure as the manager of Nottingham Forest and has deployed no less than five different formations within that time.
That is something I can fully understand when you inherit a new squad and add to it with a handful of your own signings. You won’t find the right formula overnight which is what Antonio Conte discovered at Chelsea a couple of years ago.
The debate rages on between the fans regarding our manager and whether he is the right man to take the club forward next season, and as per usual it’s a heated one.
But Joao Carvalho’s attitude has been exemplary - and he personified this with his feet against Middlesbrough.
The challenge is set to win three consecutive games for the first time this season but will only be possible if the little man from Leiria is allowed to do what he does best.