Football

Mark Lawrenson: Arsenal target William Carvalho looks an outstanding player

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BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson has heaped praise on Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho after his dazzling performance for Portugal in their 1-0 victory over England during last night's European U21 Championship clash.

The 23-year-old played a starring role as Rui Jorge's side secured a crucial three points from their opening game in Group B, with the former Liverpool defender claiming he was head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch in the Czech Republic town of Uherske Hradiste.

Lawrenson also divulged some information that is sure to excite Arsenal supporters ahead of the summer window after suggesting that Arsene Wenger has had "a good look" at the box-to-box star as he weighs up a prospective bid to bring him to the Emirates Stadium.

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Carvalho is exactly the kind of defensive-minded midfield player that the Gunners have been crying out for in recent years, although the recent emergence of Francis Coquelin to first-team prominence in north London might prompt the typically frugal French tactician to reconsider his transfer plans.

The Daily Mirror reported last month that Sporting now value the Portuguese ace at £21.5 million, having dropped their initial asking price of £35 million last summer.

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His arrival would still represent a significant outlay for Arsenal, but based on Lawrenson's recommendation, he would be worth the big investment.

"Portugal had a couple of outstanding performances on the night," he explained. "William Carvalho is far too good for this level.

"Carvalho [who qualifies as he was under 21 at the start of the two-year tournament cycle] looked like a sixth former in the playground playing against 11-year-olds who have just come into the first year of grammar school - it was that easy for him.

"He just strolled through the game - it was frightening. I know supposedly that Arsenal have had a good look at him and he looks an outstanding player."

Gareth Southgate's Young Lions side were unlucky to lose by all accounts after dominating proceedings for the majority of the match. But, despite having 20 attempts on goal they were unable to find a breakthrough and were made to pay when Joao Mario's strike early in the second half condemned them to defeat.

England must now win both of their remaining group games against Sweden and Italy if they are going to advance to the semi-finals after Southgate acknowledged that five points is generally the number needed to progress.

"We still have a fantastic chance of going through," he reflected. "We have to move on quickly but the next two matches are ones we can win.

"We know that you generally need five points to get out of the group so we need to win both games. But there's no reason why we can't do that.

"My experience of tournaments is that if you don't react well then you have no chance in the next game.

"It's a very quick turnaround and our mentality now is very important. They can't be overly critical of themselves, we have more to come and that will see us through."

England take on Sweden - who beat Italy - next on Sunday, knowing that failure to win will effectively rule out their chances of reaching the last four.

Arsenal fans: Would you like to see William Carvalho sign on at the Emirates this summer? Do you think £21.5m is a fair price to pay for his potential? Have your say below…

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