Last season Nottingham Forest fans fell in love with a new hero. Eyebrows were raised when the club stumped up £13.2 million to sign Joao Carvalho. In the space of a few months, however, the little magician became idolised.
The bond between the Portuguese playmaker and the Forest faithful strengthened when former boss Martin O’Neill opted to banish Carvalho to the bench. It’s certainly fair to suggest that the Reds might have won more games under his stewardship had he utilised the 22-year-old a bit more.
In the summer Forest fans had the chance to swoon over another marvel from Portugal when Tiago Silva checked in from Feirense. YouTube highlights perhaps suggested similar qualities to Carvalho, albeit from a slightly deeper midfield role.
The 26-year-old has looked steady in the games he has played and is slowly adapting to the demands of the Championship.
With both Portuguese stars now fit and available for selection, boss Sabri Lamouchi is faced with a conundrum. He must now decide if the duo can play together in the same starting eleven.
Carvalho must be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet. If the man with 20 caps for Portugal under-21s is fit then his selection is practically nailed on.
Can Forest afford such luxury?
Lamouchi is clearly finding the selection of the two players challenging. Only once have Silva and Carvalho been named in the same starting line-up during a Championship fixture.
The pair started during the 1-0 win over Barnsley a fortnight ago. On that occasion, Carvalho was utilised in an unfamiliar left-wing role.
It’s certainly an interesting one. Both are good enough to be starting the majority of games. With Forest occasionally lacking creativity this season, it’s certainly in the manager’s best interests.
The problem comes with both preferring to play as the number 10 behind the lone striker. Clearly, Lamouchi isn’t going to deploy two flair players in that role and at the moment he is choosing to decide between the two.
Who to sacrifice
Ben Watson has played every league game this season; with Alfa Semedo, Samba Sow or Silva, playing in a makeshift central midfield role, alongside the experienced midfielder.
One option could be to have one of Watson or Sow holding with both Carvalho and Silva floating around the striker. That tactic only seems likely should Forest be in desperate need of a goal to save a game, however.
It’s hardly a bad thing for the manager to have two players boasting the quality of Carvalho and Silva at his disposal.
Forest’s results so far with the boss choosing one or the other have been exceptional, particularly away from home.
If Lamouchi can find a winning formula that includes a team boasting both Portuguese phenomenons, however, Forest could really kick on this season.