When Everton parted with a fee of around £40 million this summer for Watford star Richarlison, the football world seemed to be in agreement that they have vastly overpaid.
It wasn’t that the Richarlison was a bad player — he had shown during his first few months at Watford that he had quality — but it was more to do with the fact that the Brazilian was so inconsistent last season.
However, his best run of form came when Marco Silva was in charge of the Hornets, a fact that a lot of people seemed to forget when they were judging the transfer.
This weekend’s game was a huge chance for Richarlison to prove his doubters wrong, and boy did he make sure that Everton fans were left purring come full time.
A more clinical finisher
Richarlison had not been known for his clinical finishing at Watford and was often seen as frustratingly wasteful. He could also fashion himself opportunities, but his wayward shooting meant he scored no-where near as much as he could have. In fact, from 95 shots in 2017/18, Richarlison scored just five goals.
Against Wolves though, he was predatory in his shooting. His first goal was an instinctive finish in which he was able to poke the ball home from a corner.
However, his second goal was arguably the goal of the weekend. He picked the ball up on the left side, before dribbling towards the box and bending the ball sublimely into the bottom right corner. It was a goal of true world class nature and justified Everton’s £40 million fee for him.
Richarlison's work rate
It was a tenacious performance from Richarlison, too, which would have impressed fans even if he failed to get onto the scoresheet. He was fouled three times because of his trickery and completed 100% of his three attempted tackles to help Everton’s cause when they were down to ten men.
Richarlison's final third creativity was previously a noted feature of his game — and the main reason Silva brought him to Goodison Park — but his impressive work rate proved that he could dig in for his side as they spent a large portion of the game with a man disadvantage.
For example, the Brazilian boasted five blocks — the most in the side — and he contested the most aerial battles on the team, winning five of them.
Richarlison's heat map demonstrates discipline in his performance.
The heat map above shows Richarlison’s positional sense. He was tracking back to defend, but crucially he rarely strayed from the left wing, important for a disciplined Silva system and one that incorporates more traditional wingers.
Richarlison's pass mapMoreover, Richarlison was active up and down that left channel and had the better of Wolves’ right side. His touch and pass maps demonstrate how important he was to the way Everton played, even with ten men.
Most of Richarlison's touches came in Wolves' defensive third, but he displayed a willingness to track back, having 20 touches in his own half.He made more touches (54) than any other Everton forward, played more passes (31) and contributed both goals. It was truly a stunning debut.
However, it was not all positive for the Brazilian as he struggled to dribble past players and he failed to spark much creativity for those around him. The caveat to the fact that Richarlison didn't complete a key pass, though, is that Everton drastically changed their gameplan when Phil Jagielka was sent off after 40 minutes.
What happens from here?
The critics were silenced on Saturday evening at Molineux. Richarlison entered the game with a huge weight of expectation and criticism because he wasn't perceived to be worth the fee that the Toffees paid.
It is early days for the 21-year-old, but he proved on the opening day that he could be the attacking piece that Everton missed last season.
Players like Yannick Bolasie, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney failed to impress last season for the Toffees and Richarlison looks like the perfect remedy for Everton’s attacking woes.
Silva’s men have four big games coming up against sides they could reasonably expect to beat. And if Richarlison can continue his opening day form into those games, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they put themselves in a good position to challenge the top six.