The football world seemed to baulk as one when the news emerged of the £40 million transfer fee Everton Football Club had paid for 21-year-old Brazilian winger Richarlison. The former Fluminense man had an impressive start to life in England 12 months ago having arrived at Watford for a much smaller £12 million and featured prominently in Marco Silva’s overachieving Hornets, although his form dropped off significantly post-Christmas which also coincided with Silva’s departure from Vicarage Road.
Fast-forward to today and Richarlison currently sits top of the Premier League scoring charts alongside Sadio Mane and Sergio Aguero, after 2 games. But Richarlison has scored those 3 goals from only 4 shots compared to Mane’s 6 and Aguero’s 12, making him the league’s deadliest finisher at this early stage of the season. We take a look at what makes Richarlison a perfect fit into Marco Silva’s Everton side and why he’s already looking worth every penny of that contentious transfer fee.
Marco Silva was a wanted man on the blue half of Merseyside for at least 6 months before his arrival and the early signs at Goodison Park are a testament to their belief in the young Portuguese boss. Silva’s stints at Watford and Hull were both short-lived but yet impressive as he quickly introduced an eye-catching style of play and a fearlessness in his teams. Silva is not overly concerned with his side dominating possession, it’s the use of possession that matters. His teams move the ball quickly and players will look pick out the furthest free option, preferably playing the ball on the floor, while supporting runs are made beyond the receiving player to advance the ball up the pitch quickly.
These patterns are reminiscent of Rinus Michel’s Netherlands side of the 1970s, captained by Johan Cruyff. Together the two Dutchmen changed the game of football with their ‘total football’ concept. The system demands that all 11 players be comfortable on the ball, they work hard to win the ball back when it’s lost and that players can comfortably switch positions to maintain shape both in and out of possession. Silva’s Everton have displayed these patterns in their opening 2 Premier League games this season, there is a fluidity of movement in attack with players creating space behind the opposition for teammates to run into. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds currently play in a similar fashion, the Argentine manager also takes many of his principles from the Dutch ‘total football’ concept.
This system also requires the wingers to sometimes interchange positions with the central striker and therefore possess typical number 9 qualities in attack. Richarlison has more than displayed his varying abilities in the attacking third in his only 2 Everton appearances so far. Just as he did under Marco Silva at Watford, Richarlison typically plays on the left wing and has already formed a good partnership with left-back Leighton Baines. The two are pivotal to Everton’s penetrating attacks down the left where Baines will often either over-lap or under-lap the Brazilian winger while the latter moves inside to support the striker, Cenk Tosun.
Brilliant individual skill alone, however, won’t get you 30 goals a season. Being able to score tap-ins and scrappy goals is just as important if you want to beat the likes of Salah, Kane and Aguero to the Golden Boot accolade. But Richarlison also has that knack of being in the right place at the right time when the ball is in the box, scoring Everton’s opening goal against Wolves after their free-kick had dropped favourably in the penalty area and the Brazilian pounced to open his 2018/19 account.
His Goodison Park debut would not disappoint either as Richarlison got Everton’s second and ultimately winning goal of the game, this time utilising his heading ability. If he keeps this up, we’ll be adding ‘poacher’ to Richarlison’s ever-growing list of positive traits.
Richarlison’s finishing abilities in differing situations and his ability to find space in the box make him a serious goal threat for Everton’s opponents and has likely already made himself the first forward on the Everton team sheet. Maintaining this form will be Richarlison’s true test, especially since he notably dropped off in the second half of last season, though issues such as fatigue and change of manager could well have been contributing factors then.
Further keeping to the ‘total football’ philosophy, when out of possession Marco Silva’s sets his team up to press high up the pitch. His Everton side endlessly attempted to disrupt their opposition by constantly applying intense pressure on the ball carrier while the remaining players cut off short passing lanes, trying to either push their opponents back or force them to play long where the Everton defence fancy their chances in dealing with aerial threats as well as out-pacing forwards. The system is very physically demanding of all players as one failing cog in the pressing machine can leave it open to exploitation.
Every loose ball is chased down by Silva’s men and the forward players, in particular, are asked to work extremely hard out of possession, but in Richarlison, Silva has a winger who relishes the challenge and is of a team-first mentality. He might be praised for his goal scoring thus far but it isn’t just the goal scoring charts Richarlison currently tops, he has also made 5 tackles in his two Premier League appearances which make him the highest tackling forward in the league, add to that his third-highest interception rate for forward players and the 21-year-old winger’s value to his side becomes more obvious. The following sequence in Everton’s 2-1 win over Southampton shows exactly what Richarlison gives to his team when out of possession.
Richarlison has the perfect blend of physicality, energy and attitude for the demands placed on him by his boss, more reasons as to why the Brazilian was in such high demand at Goodison Park this summer.
The Road Ahead
It’s only been 2 games but the hype surrounding Richarlison seems justified and the Brazilian could not have been more relieved to open his Everton goalscoring account on his debut against Wolves as he bagged a brace in a 2-2 draw at Molineux Stadium. If the early signs are accurate, Richarlison is looking a bargain at £40 million and may be the ‘X’ factor that can legitimise Everton’s top 4 ambitions this season.
Marco Silva’s insistence on buying the 21-year-old from Watford no matter the cost, is becoming far more understandable when you consider Richarlison’s range of finishing, his self-admitted desire to be the league’s top scorer and his role in this fluid attacking Everton system. Everton fans are not a fickle bunch, so to say he’s earned their acceptance would be premature at this early stage, but if his ambitions for this season are realised, Richarlison will fast be a Goodison Park hero.