We continue our player by player review of the past Everton season, in which each individual will be recapped and rated. Next up: Richarlison
The transfer market is a silly thing.
Twice a year, we huddle around our televisions, laptops and phones, and argue about how much money we would or would not spend on footballers. Never mind that the sums of money in questions are always more money than we’ll ever see in our lives. Never mind that we’ve only seen the player play three times. Dammit, we’re going to have opinions on things.
And so it was when Everton spent £35 million on Richarlison following a breakout, if inconsistent Premier League debut season at Watford. If that number sounds wrong to you, it might be because basically the entire world reported it at a £50 million move — that was the peak the fee could rise to, with £35 million as the base fee. Alas, truth in punditry is dead.
After scoring 13 Premier League goals and working his way into a regular starting position on the Brazilian national team this season, you don’t hear much about that transfer fee, do you? Richarlison isn’t necessarily the most well-rounded attacker you’ll ever see, but the man can put the ball in the back of the net with regularity, to the extent that Brazil might not even miss Neymar too much in this summer’s Copa America.
Did I mention Richarlison had 14 goals this season for Everton in all competitions? Oh? I did? Well let me remind you anyway — Richarlison had 14 goals this season.
His non-penalty goals per 90 minutes was 21st best in the Premier League among players with at least 15 appearances, a reasonable rate of output for a player who spent approximately two-thirds of his minutes in a wide position, rather than as a central striker. (more on that later).
His xG for the season, per Understat, was 11.33, giving him a respectable though not outrageous 0.38 xG per 90. In short then, Richarlison was an upper-tier scorer this season, both in terms of his chance creation and finishing — though he’s not quite elite (yet?) in either category.
He’s certainly not an elite playmaker either — he chalked up just one assist on 1.96 xA in Premier League play this season. Among Everton players, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bernard, Ademola Lookman, Cenk Tosun, Leighton Baines, Theo Walcott, Morgan Schneiderlin, Seamus Coleman, and Jonjoe Kenny all averaged more key passes per 90 minutes than the Brazilian attacker.
In Richarlison then, Marco Silva has one of the most effective goalscorers from the wing in Europe, but one whose playmaking numbers are downright bad.
Silva tried, with limited success, to use his budding superstar as a striker, rather than a winger, in the early parts of the season — presumably looking to focus on his good traits while minimizing the bad. It was a worthwhile experiment, but one that never really got off the ground.
Richarlison looked most dangerous, as did most of his teammates, in the final third of the season when Silva committed to using Dominic Calvert-Lewin as his true striker in a consistently high-pressing system. The advanced ball-winning positions Everton tries to find itself in benefits the Brazilian, who can use his pace and guile to get in behind at a moment’s notice.
This was most effective when he was utilized on the right wing, opposite the team’s primary playmakers on the left — Bernard and Lucas Digne.
Richarlison still has some growing to do — both in terms of his game and his attitude. Becoming just an average passer of the ball would diversify his play immensely, and he could certainly do with out the petulant simulation and general interpersonal combativeness as well.
That said, there are already rumors of interest in Richarlison from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, and with the player still just a staggering 22 years old, who could blame them?
It wasn’t a perfect season from Richarlison, but Everton would happily take even just a repeat of his 2018-19 in 2019-20 and beyond — and there’s reason to think he could be capable of even more. As long as Silva can keep him engaged, Richarlison could be one of the most important figures in an Everton journey back to European competition.