Tobias Figueiredo got the nod again for Nottingham Forest’s trip to Brentford and is staking a serious claim to keeping Michael Dawson on the sidelines.
The Portuguese got his chance in 2019-20 as a result of the Reds’ club captain picking up an unfortunate knock.
Dawson’s vast experience was favoured alongside Joe Worrall at the start of the campaign.
Been there, seen it, done it.
Having collected many a t-shirt over the course of his career, including a few England ones, Dawson was asked to lead by example.
He did just that as a model of consistency over the opening weeks.
Composed on the ball, strong in the air and fierce in the tackle, there were no holes to be picked in his game.
That is until fitness struggles struck again.
Dawson spent much of his first season back on Trentside in the treatment room.
He headed in that direction again during a meeting with Stoke in September.
Chema replaced him at the bet365 Stadium, but it was Figueiredo who was selected from the off for Forest’s next outing at Blackburn.
The 25-year-old traded home and away duty with Chema before making his first league appearance of the season at the City Ground when Derby paid a visit on November 9.
That start formed part of a run of six in succession.
Figueiredo came back in as Sabri Lamouchi shuffled his park in the wake of a 4-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
He was a regular again through to the turn of the year.
Dawson was then rotated back in for home dates against Luton and Reading.
The 36-year-old did little wrong in those contests, but slipped behind a younger colleague once again for a 1-0 victory at Griffin Park.
Worrall has been the one constant throughout all of this.
A home-grown centre-half has been a revelation since returning from a loan spell at Rangers.
Figueiredo, though, has been an able assistant when called upon.
To the point that he has outperformed Dawson in a number of areas.
Both men have now taken in 14 Championship appearances this season, so they can be compared on a level footing.
Figueiredo – with 10 away outings to his name – tops Dawson in terms of clearances (88 to 71), tackles (12 to 4), tackle success (66.67 to 50), interceptions (17 to 9) and duels won (62 to 58).
He also has two goals to his name, while a direct rival has just one.
Forest’s defensive record with Portuguese power favoured over English grit is better as well.
The Reds have been breached 10 times across Figueiredo’s outings, compared to 16 when Dawson is involved.
The latter does, as you would expect, see more of the ball when called upon, but there is little to choose between them when it comes to passing accuracy (74.33 to 76.08).
It should also be noted that nobody averages more clearances per game than Figueiredo (6.45).
That goes to show that he has mastered the art of being in the right place, at the right time.
Only Worrall has seen the ball out of danger on more occasions this term in total, with Figueiredo sitting second on the list despite figuring in less than half of Forest’s second tier fixtures.
For a man who appeared to be out of favour last summer, that is a more than decent return.
It took time for Lamouchi to be taken in by his charms, but the French coach has been won over.
That appears set to benefit the collective cause.
Figueiredo has shown plenty of promise throughout his time in England.
And there should still be more potential to unlock as a player in his mid-20s.
With Dawson not getting any younger, and stability/continuity always useful at the heart of any back four, both the short and long-term future could belong to Figs.