Sheffield Wednesday: Lucas Joao set for a big year at Hillsborough
We have seen glimpses, albeit limited, of what Lucas Joao is truly capable of.
The Sheffield Wednesday striker, who arrived in England from Portuguese outfit C.D Nacional in July 2015, has often struggled to find a level of consistency.
After a dazzling, sublime performance in the Owls' historic 3-0 win over Arsenal in the League Cup fourth round back in October 2015, the Portuguese striker was tipped by almost everyone to develop at a rapid rate of knots.
But Joao's Wednesday career went in completely the opposite direction. His chances became more and more limited and the goals dried up.
In January 2017, Joao was farmed out on loan to fellow Championship club Blackburn Rovers in a bid to get regular game-time and learn the ropes of English football just that little bit better. His time at Ewood Park was hardly blistering either. In 13 games, he found the net just three times.
Upon his return to Hillsborough in the summer of 2017, questions were asked if Joao had the credentials to get up to speed with the English game. His performances were far too inconsistent and for a big, strong, physical player he got knocked off the ball far too easily.
But after Carlos Carvalhal exited Hillsborough in December 2017, Joao was presented with a golden opportunity to cement himself in the new manager's plans. He got it, even though Jos Luhukay, appointed in January 2018, had little choice but to play the former CD Nacional man. Wednesday were in the middle of an injury crisis and Joao was one of just three fit strikers at the club, alongside Jordan Rhodes and Atdhe Nuhiu.
Joao ended the 2017/18 campaign with nine goals to his name, eight of which came under Luhukay's watch. It filled Wednesday's supporters with confidence that Joao was finally coming of age and showcasing the talents he was truly capable of.
The start of last season, too, offered encouragement to Wednesdayites. Joao netted five goals in his first nine games of the season, including three inside his first three.
Yet still he was struggling to offer a consistent level of performance. He was on it one week and very much off it the next, leading Luhukay into admitting that he felt the forward was better suited as an impact player off the substitutes bench.
Under Bruce, too, Joao has struggled to consistently deliver. He would look razor sharp in one match and then as flat as a pancake the next. And that is the biggest thing that Joao needs to overcome if he is to become a key weapon in the Owls' armoury.
The potential is most certainly there, it is just seeking its big, breakthrough moment. And that is why next season is going to be key for the 25-year-old.
If he doesn't start and deliver a level of consistency it is unlikely that Bruce will be picking on him to spearhead the Owls' forward line week-in, week-out.