After an impressive 25-goal haul at Everton in 2016-17, forward Romelu Lukaku left for the greener (or redder) pastures of Manchester United in 2017-18. Wayne Rooney went the other way, but it was more of a nostalgic than pragmatic move, as the legendary forward’s age had caught up with him. Besides the dip in production, Rooney’s loss of speed had made made him more of a playmaking midfielder than finishing forward. Unfortunately, that left the Toffees’ cupboard rather bare up front for managers Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth (caretaker), and Sam Allardyce.
Summer transfer Sandro Ramirez was a complete bust, while Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvin-Lewin struggled badly trying to replace the big Belgian at the striker spot. Winter transfer Cenk Tosun did not exactly announce himself as the answer, but he had his moments. After scoring five goals in 14 games, he earned a chance to lead the line to start 2018-19 under new manager Marco Silva. Meanwhile, Richarlison came in as a pricey transfer (£35.3m) from Watford. Some thought he would energize the left wing and bring excitement to a Toffees’ offense that tied for the 11th most goals in 2017-18 (44, just 1.2 gpg).
Silva has implemented the 4-2-3-1 formation almost exclusively this season, naturally making for an extremely important choice at the lone forward spot. In the first three games, the same four players filled the front diamond: Tosun as the lone striker, Richarlison at left wing, Theo Walcott at right wing, and Gylffi Sigurdsson on central midfield. Richarlison, of course, was given a red card late in the first half of Week 3, forcing Silva’s hand at a lineup shift in Weeks 4 and 5, but the manager kept things similar on offense with Calvert-Lewin merely replacing Richarlison. Then, with Tosun having failed to score in the first five games, Silva moved DCL into Tosun’s spot in Weeks 6 and 7, re-installing Richarlison at left wing.
Silva made a drastic change for Week 8, turning to a 4-4-2 with Richarlison and Sigurdsson as the two forwards, Bernard and Walcott on the wings, and Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies in defensive midfield. For weeks 9-11, Silva returned to his 4-2-3-1, with Richarlison leading the line by himself, Bernard and Walcott on the wings, and Siggy back in central midfield.
Silva’s tinkering surely appears to have gotten things where he wants them; after winning only once in the first six games with Richarlison on the wing (or out suspended), the Toffees have triumphed in four of their past five tries. The numbers bear out the improvement: In the first half dozen games, Everton averaged 8.0 shots, 4.2 shots on target, 1.7 goals, and 51% possession; in the past quintet of contests, the Toffees have boosted those numbers significantly up to 12.2 shots, 5.8 SOT, 2.2 goals, and 54% possession.
Richarlison may not be a natural central forward, but it certainly seems that he offers the best option for Everton there at the moment. That was illustrated brilliantly by his brace in the 3-1 victory over Brighton this past weekend where the young Brazilian grabbed man-of-the-match honors.
The virtuoso performance came on a day when Everton created plenty of chances, but golden first half opportunities from Sigurdsson and Walcott went wanting. Thankfully, Richarlison managed to convert his big chances in the game, and the winger-turned-striker’s pair of goals would make any true center forward proud.
On the first score, Siggy deftly fed Richarlison who had made an incisive run into the box, and the Brazilian rocketed his shot over a helpless Mat Ryan into the roof of the net to stake the Toffees to a 1-0 lead. Later, with the Toffees up 2-1, Richarlison secured the victory by pouncing with cat-like quickness on Lewis Dunk’s careless back pass to Shane Duffy, cheekily knocking the ball around the last defender, calmly dribbling past Ryan and slotting the ball into the net, cool as you like. Would Tosun have scored either of those? Impossible to say for sure, but I think the answer is: maybe, if you want to be generous, but no, probably not.
Richarlison’s outstanding two-goal performance rewarded fantasy managers to the tune of:
- 15 points in Official FPL (including all three bonus points), and
- 22 points in Fantrax (with peripheral stats of 4 shots, 2 SOT, and 2 fouls suffered)
It is worth mentioning that having Richarlison play forward may not actually be as different it is sounds after all. According to the Fantrax positional breakdown (as defined/provided by Opta), Richarlison has played forward 4 times, compared to 5 appearances in midfield this season. In 2017-18 (playing under Silva and Javi Gracia for Watford), Richarlison actually played more than half of his games at forward — 21, compared to only 17 in midfield — at least on the pitch, if not in the XI as filled out.
It will be interesting to see if Everton brings in any true forward(s) in the winter transfer window. Until we find out, enjoy seeing Richarlison at work up front while being classified by FPL as a midfielder!
Manchester City Midfielder Raheem Sterling & Co.
Admittedly, I’m cheating by picking Richardson as POTW. After all, Raheem Sterling scored two goals and added a pair of assists, which is clearly a better output than the Evertonian’s brace without a helper, at least on its face. But Sterling did not stand out for Manchester City the way that Richarlison did for Everton. For the Citizens, it was much more of a team effort in the 6-1 shredding of Southampton. After all, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane each had a goal and two assists, not far off what Sterling did. Sterling, Aguero and Sane simply ran riot on the Saints... and David Silva also chipped in with a nice goal. (Unfortunately, a rash challenge by Ederson and subsequent penalty conversion by Danny Ings ruined the quest for a clean sheet by City’s keeper as well as the defenders.)
Raheem Sterling: 21 fantasy points in FPL, 31 in Fantrax
Sergio Aguero: 13 points in FPL, 20 in Fantrax
Leroy Sane: 14 points in FPL, 18 in Fantrax
Manchester City came into the game lamenting the midweek injury of Kevin De Bruyne, but the brilliant play-maker was hardly missed. Continuing his outstanding production, Sterling is showing that last season’s breakout was no fluke whatsoever; at 77 points in FPL, he has delivered the third most points in the game, barely behind only Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso. Meanwhile, Aguero continues to chug along (especially at home), and with Sterling and Kun surrounded by offensive stars such as Sane, David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, the Citizens are a real danger to play on any day when they are clicking... which of course is quite often.
Chelsea Forward Alvaro Morata
Richarlison and Sterling weren’t the only players with braces, as Chelsea forward Alvaro Morata scored a pair in the Blues’ 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace. Since coming over as a highly-rated (and very expensive at £59.4m) transfer from Real Madrid in the summer of 2017, Morata has pretty much been a bust. He has certainly not been able to fill the shoes of Diego Costa, so much so that every game it seems like an unknown whether Maurizio Sarri will pick Morata or Olivier Giroud to lead the line.
But the Spaniard certainly staked his claim to the job going forward in Sunday’s win at Stamford Bridge. The first goal was a simple right footed finish in the center from close range, utilizing a deft first touch which created space from the defender. The second came from Eden Hazard’s free kick that magically went untouched until reaching Morata on the side, and required a left-footed finish from a very tough angle that put Chelsea up 2-1.
Pedro, another Chelsea player who has been in and out of the XI, also starred with the final goal that sealed the victory in addition to his assist.
West Ham Midfielder Felipe Anderson
After notching only one goal (and contributing just one assist) in the first 10 games following his £34.2m summer transfer from Lazio, attacking midfielder Felipe Anderson stands out as the most unlikely brace scorer of this weekend’s bunch. That said, it’s not like Anderson is without offensive talent. Au contraire, the left-winger racked up 31 goals (and added 37 assists) in his final five Serie A seasons.
West Ham took care of Burnley 4-2 at home in London, and both of Anderson’s goals proved vital. First Anderson gave the Hammers the lead at 2-1, streaking up the left flank, taking a pass from promising young midfielder Grady Diangana and beating Joe Hart 1-on-1. After Chris Wood’s header tied things up for the visitors, Anderson again brought West Ham the lead, this time for good, finishing after the ball came to him in tight quarters. This was after Anderson had unluckily grazed the bar with another effort; with better fortune, the Brazilian could have easily had a hattie.
Anderson was also an essential part of the clinching fourth goal for West Ham, knocking a long pass to Michail Antonio, who then assisted Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Anderson’s huge game translated to 13 points in FPL and 29 in Fantrax. West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic delivered almost as big of a performance as Anderson, finishing with 12 points in FPL and 28 in Fantrax.
(Note: Statistics utilized in the article came via www.transfermarkt.com as well as the Official FPL and Fantrax sites.)
How did you do in Week 11? Did you have Richarlison, Raheem Sterling, Alvaro Morata, Felipe Anderson, or any of the other stars of the weekend in your fantasy team? If not, are you rushing to add them, or instead holding off? Let us know in the comments!