Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Everton began the season with a draw away to Wolverhampton Wanderers and, although the game was disrupted by a sending off, there were still several positives.
The Toffees held their own with ten men, showing glimpses of the style they would play under new manager Marco Silva. The brace scored by Richarlison was the obvious plus point.
This weekend, Everton built on this promising display, seeing off a Southampton side in their first home game of the new campaign.
Richarlison grabbed another, as did his partner in crime, Theo Walcott, after their new boss was introduced to the home crowd before the game.
The Brazilian is clearly an important part of this new-look Everton side. But are there tactical explanations for why he has fitted in so seamlessly at Goodison?
Silencing the doubters
Everton couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season from their big summer signing.
The £40 million they sent Watford’s in exchange for Richarlison’s services was ridiculed on social media, being compared with fees paid for other more high profile players in years gone by.
Those making the comparisons apparently forgetting about or ignoring inflation and didn’t care to report the fee accurately.
Rivaldo - £10.6m. Zidane - £3.1m. Seedorf - £7.7m. Ronaldo - £13.50m. Shearer - £18.6m.
Richarlison - £50m.
— SPORF (@Sporf) July 25, 2018
In today’s transfer market prices between £30 million and £50 million are regularly shelled out without eyelids being batted but, for some reason, this deal attracted plenty of derision.
It was, however, misplaced. As Everton manager Marco Silva pointed out after Richarlison scored the winner in the 2-1 victory over Southampton, the Brazilian is a perfect fit for the club.
“When we sign a player like him, not only can he perform well and score, he gives 100%,” he said. “He's a player who fits the club really well. Two games, three goals, it’s important for him.”
Richarlison fits perfectly into Silva’s tactics.
Managers often bring players from their old clubs when looking to implement a style which got them the new job in the first place. We’ve seen it with another manager this season as Maurizio Sarri brought Jorginho with him from Napoli to aid the transition to Sarrismo at Stamford Bridge.
REUTERS/Peter PowellIt’s a similar idea for Silva and Richarlison. The 21-year-old is a unique asset, boasting the pace and skill of a winger but also the guile, size, and positional play of a centre forward. It’s like having a striker out wide.
The work he does on the defensive side of the game is also critical. In the game against Southampton, Richarlison made two tackles and two interceptions, and has a total of five blocked passes and even a blocked shot in the two games he has played so far this season.
The image above, from WhoScored, shows Richarlison's contributions throughout the game in both attack and defence, and where they occurred on the pitch.
As you can see, his two shots were central suggesting that the youngster is not doing the usual cutting in and shooting from the left edge of the area as many right-footed forwards do playing on the opposite flank.
His ability to help at defensive set pieces is also on display in the shape of three clearances in his own box.
Working with Walcott
The balance Richarlison offers the team in attack is important, and the differences in style and positioning between himself and Theo Walcott on the other side keeps defenders on their toes.
Walcott assisted Richarlison’s goal against Southampton, which turned out to be the winner. On the face of it, this was a bog-standard cross from right winger to striker. But the way the pair operate means that Walcott is more than a winger and Richarlison is much more than a striker.
Action Images via Reuters/Ed SykesWhen the team are attacking, the Englishman’s starting position is that of a wide midfielder, while Richarlison’s is more like a winger or inside forward.
However, as the play develops these roles change. Walcott pushes up, and will turn into the traditional winger. On the other side, Richarlison will drop off the opposition defence to get involved in the build-up if needed, before drifting forward and inside, especially if the play is on the opposite side.
The goal was a perfect example of this. Walcott became the winger and Richarlison the forward, sneaking in front of right back Cedric Soares while Cenk Tosun, whose role is also key in allowing these two wide players to thrive, occupies the centre backs.
The formation is probably best described as a 4-2-3-1 but, in defence, this can become a 4-5-1 as both wide men join the midfield. It can see them regularly supporting their full backs in defence.
Richarlison's current role is one of a few the former Fluminense man could operate in and it will be interesting to see where he plays once compatriot and fellow new signing Bernard comes into the starting eleven later in the season.
There are aspects of Richarlison’s play that are reminiscent of another Brazilian plying his trade in the Stanley Park area — Roberto Firmino. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Richarlison operate in a false nine role for Everton similar to Firmino’s at Liverpool. This versatility could be something which pushes him further towards joining Firmino in the Brazil squad.
If Richarlison's goal-scoring contributions continue, then he could help fire Everton towards becoming real challengers this season, returning them to the upper echelons of the table they once frequented.
But his manager is happy with his contribution regardless and it won’t be long before the fee paid for his services is forgotten.