Sporting Club de Portugal produce some of the best talents the football World ever witnesses. After a poor domestic campaign in the 2012-13 season, the Portuguese club have changed their fortunes around this season, still retaining their youthful core. No one deserves more recognition than William Carvalho.
Who is William Carvalho?
A produce of Sporting’s famed youth academy, William Carvalho made his debut for the club at the tender age of 18 in the 2010/11 season. Although he wasn’t getting too many chances in the first team, he was gaining experience at the International level, establishing himself in the Portugese U-19 side.
This article was written by Bruno Miguel Espalha. Follow him on twitter @BrunoMEspalha
He found chances hard to come by the following season as well and a loan move was needed to gain first-team experience. In an era where Belgium’s Jupiler League has been producing the best talents in World football, Sporting saw it fitting to send Carvalho over to the league with a vast talent pool. He thus joined Cercle Brugge for the second half of the 11/12 season and experience some well-needed first team action. He made a total of 21 appearances in all competitions during his time in Belgium, he scored his only goal for the club in a remarkable 6-4 victory over OH Leuven in a Jupiler League Playoff match.
Following his success in his first season in Belgium, Cercle Brugge extended his loan deal into the next season as well. 32 appearances in all competitions followed, including 2 crucial goals in the relegation play-off over two games against Germinal Beerschoft ensuring survival in the competition.
Carvalho’s parent club, Sporting CP had a poor campaign as well while he was playing with Cercle Brugge. Upon his return from Belgium, new manager Leonardo Jardim threw him right into the first team, the club now find themselves in top spot and have nearly reached their points total for the previous campaign with more than half the season still to go.
Carvalho has started all 14 games for Sporting, completing the entire 90 minutes in 13 of those games. He’s got his shooting boots on as well, scoring twice in the league in addition to the two he has scored for the Portuguese U-21 team. He was also on the bench for Portugal’s massive World Cup play off game against Sweden, coming on in the second leg away from home for his first cap.
If his consistency lasts for a whole season, he will be in the starting lineup for Portugal in the World Cup 2014. Having that in mind, the end of the season might be the best time to make a bid for the talented midfielder. After the World Cup, his value might be much higher. The 2013/2014 season is going very well for William, who has already scooped up two Player of the Month Awards for the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
William Carvalho featured in the Team of the Season at Outside of the Boot’s inaugural #TalentRadar Young Player Awards.
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
The 21-year-old youngster from Sporting Club de Portugal is the revelation of this season in the Portuguese Liga. Another holding midfielder, William Carvalho’s style of play is often compared to Patrick Vieira. He acts like a vacuum cleaner, destroying all the plays in his range. You can remember his performance in the second-leg playoff match between Sweden and Portugal, where he came on as a substitute to shore up the area ahead of Portugal centre-backs. After his appearance in the game, Sweden’s attacking power dried out immediately. On top of that his physical presence in the attack has already earned him some goals from corner kicks and set-pieces.
As mentioned, William Carvalho is in the Patrick Vieira mould. His preferred position is as a single holding midfielder in a three-man midfield. He’s also able to play as a centre-back. With a strong physical presence backed by his 6 feet 1 Inches he imposes himself against the opponents. Despite being very strong he’s not a hard tackler nor does he commit many fouls. His anticipation skills are one of the main strengths of his game. Moreover, his ability to read the game and to position himself in the right place in the field allow him to recover many lost balls and block dozens of passes and crosses into the area.
In the sequence above you can see how William Carvalho closes down on the opposition player and drives him to the sideline where he no longer poses a great amount of a threat. After that he steals the ball and immediately runs towards the open space to place a simple pass to the attacking midfielder.
At the age of 21, another impressive quality for William Carvalho is the calm and control he displays with the ball on his feet. Once again, helped by his physical skills, he barely loses the ball when challenged. After breaking up the opponent team attacks he picks up the ball in front of his defense and runs towards the opposition midfield with the ball controlled at his feet. This allows the players in front of him to charge forward and outnumber the defenders.
He prefers to play simple vertical passes to the more creative midfielders in front of him, but he can also play long lateral passes to the wingers and the overlapping full-backs. However, if needed, he can play more complex passes which are usually unexpected from a player with his characteristics. Although not technically gifted for those wonderful passes like top-class midfielders as Xavi, Yaya Touré or Andrea Pirlo, he can play through passes behind the opposition defense leaving his team-mates one-on-one with the keeper.
One of William Carvalho’s weaknesses arises when he plays against a technically gifted number 10. Because that player usually falls within the same playing area where William plays, his offensive skills are greatly impaired by the performance and the positioning of the opposing midfielder. He has to learn how to cope with this threat while at the same time playing the ball and contribute to the offensive transition of his team. While in the defensive part, he fully understands his duties and succeeds in marking the opponent, in the offensive part, he still cannot get free from his marker and play higher up on the pitch as he is used to. This, in turn, leaves his team unbalanced because the team relies on his ability to press high on the opposition midfield to quickly recover the ball.
“William Carvalho has played a major role in Sporting’s renaissance this season. In several matches the holding midfielder has completely ruled the centre of the pitch, simultaneously snuffing out any threat from the opposition by making timely interceptions, and setting Sporting’s attacking movements in motions with accurate passes. Like all great footballers, Carvalho seems to have more time on the ball than other players and keeps thing beautifully simply yet clinically effective. Barring injury, the 21-year-old is a shoe-in for Portugal’s World Cup squad and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he will be a starter in Brazil.”