Following an exciting 4th place finish last season which earned a coveted Champions League spot, the Tottenham brass have been very busy this summer buying new toys for Antonio Conte. First there was left wing back Ivan Perišić on a free transfer. Then came goalkeeper Fraser Forster, again gratis. A third transfer brought defensive midfielder Yves Bissouma at a base fee of £25 million (which could rise to £35m).
Now in a fourth move, and making the biggest splash yet, comes the first purely attacking addition, with Brazilian winger Richarlison leaving Everton for Spurs at a reported price tag of £50m plus up to £10m in risers. This makes Richarlison Tottenham’s ostensibly most expensive transfer ever, surpassing Tanguy Ndbombele’s £55m exit from Lyon in 2019. Ndombele, of course, has proven a massive bust. Will Richarlison fare better and actually make a positive impact?
What Richarlison Brings to the Table
Often plying his trade at left wing, Richarlison is a dazzling talent, full of pace, shiftiness and a desire to take on the defense. As the saying goes, you can’t teach confidence, and the Brazilian boasts boldness by the boatload. Having a player of Richarlison’s attacking nature and capability crucially puts pressure on the opposing defense, bringing their eyes and bodies toward him, thus opening space and opportunity for teammates in and around the box.
Richarlison offers bodily versatility, something illustrated beautifully by his career EPL scoring distribution. Of his 48 goals, he has tallied 23 times (48%) with his right foot, 13 celebrations (27%) with his left foot and 11 line crossers (23%) with his head. (He must have scored the remaining goal elsewhere with his body, perhaps his chest?) That adaptability is a major advantage from a team standpoint, translating into positional versatility; while Richarlison is best utilized as a left winger, he can also slot in very ably at right wing or striker should the need arise.
Indeed, last season at Everton, Richarlison often found himself operating up front by himself when Dominic Calvert-Lewin was waylaid with injuries. (Of course, that situation nearly led to Everton being relegated. I would blame DCL’s absence more than Richarlison’s inability to fill in at a like level, but both were factors.)
I think it is fair to say that the Lilywhites will prefer to see Richarlison operate at left wing primarily and right wing secondarily. However, Harry Kane has endured his share of injury issues here and there, and Spurs have been seeking and failing (Vincent Janssen, Fernando Llorente, Carlos Vinicius) for a long time to secure a potent back-up should the Tottenham talisman be out for any extended period of time. While Richarlison is far from the perfect prototype in that department since striker is not his natural position, he is most definitely Spurs’ best option yet put forward (pun intended) in the Kane era.
With Richarlison adding into the mix, Tottenham now boasts outstanding flexibility for the front three, leaving the possible permutations practically limitless. Richarlison could find himself at any of the three spots, as could Son. Even Perisic is adept at left wing attacker but could also fill in at right wing attack. With Kane dropping deeper back into midfield in playmaking mode more often the past couple of seasons, the additions of Richarlison and Perisic will make Spurs’ attack further malleable, and thus even more dangerous to confused defenses.
And yes, given his stature as a member of A Seleção, Richarlison certainly shows off no shortage of the requisite Brazilian flair that brings fans up out of their seats. Take a look at his wondrous skill set:
Richarlison is a tireless worker, not just on offense but also in defense, where he has accumulated 273 tackles, 123 blocked shots, 78 interceptions, 176 clearances and 126 headed clearances across his five EPL seasons. That approach is something which will be required by Conte, and will also get the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium faithful behind him.
Importantly, Richarlison also brings durability, having featured in 2,500’+ minutes in each campaign with Watford and Everton. As another saying goes, health is a skill, so we can add that to Richarlison’s set of gifts.
An added bonus is that very fact that he has played five campaigns in the league, and as such does not require any time to familiarize himself with the rigors of the Premiership. On top of that, Richarlison is still young (25), just about in his prime but certainly still having room to improve under the tutelage of one of the best managers in all of football, Antonio Conte, and through the impact of being surrounded by a bevy of world class players at Tottenham which he would have enjoyed on international breaks with Brazil, but certainly has never experienced on a day to day basis while with Watford or Everton.
Richarlison has scored 10+ goals three times in the past five seasons, notching 150+ points in FPL twice in that span. He has also supplied 28 fantasy assists along with 32 big chances created in his EPL career.
Richarlison’s EPL Production, Past Five Seasons
Now having the brilliant talents of Kane, Son and Kulusevski around him, Richarlison could theoretically post the best numbers of his career... with the huge caveat being if Conte affords him the requisite playing time.
On the negative side, for all of the high quality shots Richarlison ends up with, he is not the most clinical finisher, with too many of his efforts going harmlessly straight at the keeper or spraying well outside of the goal frame. According to Understat, compared to the 48 goals Richarlison has actually scored in the past five EPL seasons, he had an xG of 52.54; just based on watching his performances on t.v. now and then, I can honestly say that I was surprised he had only underperformed his expected tally by 4.54 goals, or basically one per season.
Richarlison has also underperformed with respect to his expected assists (xA) metric by 4.21 in his five EPL campaigns. Again, having seen him, I will say that a fair portion of that comes from taking shots when he should pass. There is definitely a downside to that, but there is also a positive part; sometimes selfishness simply happens with attack-minded players who want to score, which can often be forgiven. Additionally, I think that a decent portion of blame for Richarlison’s assist deficit can be applied to being surrounded by subpar finishers at Watford and Everton which will rarely be the case with Tottenham.
On top of those drawbacks, Richarlison is one of the world’s worst with respect to the dark arts of embellishment/diving, and his body language very often is mired in moodiness and sulking. While at times he can be a hothead, you can say that about plenty of footballers; 30 yellow cards and a pair of reds over five seasons is not going to set off any major alarm bells.
Highlighting a final concern, of his 10 goals last season, three came from converting penalty kick opportunities (again, thanks to DCL’s injury woes). With Harry Kane the clear #1 taker from the spot and Son deputizing at the ready, can anybody expect anything close to three PK scores for Richarlison this season even if he gets regular playing time? It’s possible, but no, any sort of real impact from the penalty spot is not what we should project.
Where, and How Often, Will Richarlison Play?
Antonio Conte generally utilizes a 3-4-2-1 formation (as per transfermarkt). However you want to define it by numerical breakdown, I would simply describe it as featuring three attackers up front aided by two attacking wing backs providing service, with those five buttressed by two defensive midfielders along with three central defenders in back. Richarlison will be vying for a spot among the three attackers, emphasis on vying for. Because right now with the upcoming campaign beckoning, Harry Kane (forward), Son Heung-min (left wing) and Dejan Kulusevski (right wing) are securely nailed on as regular starters, particularly after the team’s fantastic flying finish last season.
But with Champions League, FA Cup, the League Cup and a (very hopeful, but certainly possible) EPL title race in mind, it is vital to have high quality back-ups ready to step in if a starter gets injured/suspended or loses form. Antonio Conte is getting that vital depth not only to help in the quest of finally seeing Tottenham lift a trophy after such a long drought, but also with the added benefit of players keeping each other focused by competing in practice for playing time in games.
With Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Tanguy Ndombele all rumored to be on the way out via transfer or loan, it was necessary to bring in someone like Richarlison to be first off the bench when the team needs an attacking spark, or ready to step into the XI when Kane, Son and/or Kulusevski are unable to start. With the return of the five substitute rule (up from the usual three), we can be fairly certain that Richarlison will feature in a huge proportion of games this season. However, we have to expect that the vast majority of those appearances will come from the bench. As such, absent a long-term injury to one of Spurs’ big three up front, Richarlison’s fantasy value with Spurs takes an enormous hit after regularly starting for Everton.
I’m going to take a look at other EPL wingers, this time focusing on a few who were big fish in a small pond before jumping into much larger lagoons and becoming comparative guppies sometime in the past several seasons. The English waters don’t get any bigger than Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, do they? Let’s concentrate there.
Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) and Diogo Jota (Liverpool) all saw their pitch presence severely diminished after taking the step up to a massive EPL team; Mahrez and Jota came from smaller sides within the Premiership, whereas Ziyech came from a lesser league, the Dutch Eredivisie.
Select Wingers’ Playing Time Change After Arriving at a Big EPL Team
|R. Mahrez||Leicester||4||2,722||Man. City||4||1,674|
If Kane, Son and Kulusevski stay healthy and productive, I think that we can expect a similar reduction in playing opportunity for Richarlison in moving from Everton to Tottenham. Unfortunately, a projected pitch time in the sub-2,000’ realm is not enough to justify an FPL outlay for Richarlison at his likely price tag.
On top of that, his expected position assignment brings another blow to his fantasy value. Richarlison has been classified both as a midfielder and forward in his time in the EPL, but he has been saddled with the latter designation in more recent campaigns (hence his reduction in FPL points the past two seasons). Regrettably, given how often he played up front filling in for DCL last season, I would expect him to remain listed at forward. With forwards earning one fewer point than midfielders for each goal, plus missing out on the one point clean sheet bonus, that dims his fantasy prospects even further.
Where Does Richarlison’s Departure Leave Everton?
We have recently seen a player transfer within the EPL hurt the selling team. In January 2022, Burnley sold striker Chris Wood to Newcastle, and then immediately brought in Wout Weghorst as a replacement. Unfortunately, Weghorst only contributed 2 goals and 3 assists as the Clarets ended up getting relegated. (That said, I wouldn’t necessarily blame the relegation on Wood’s absence per se, as he only scored 2 goals with no assists after going to the Magpies. But it’s difficult to imagine that move doing anything but sour the mood in the clubhouse and in the stands.)
With Richarlison himself, though, there is an example of a transfer actually helping the selling side. Watford finished 2017-18 in 14th place before shipping Richarlison off to Everton for £35m initially with risers increasing the fee to as much as £50m. In 2018-19, using the haul to bring in Gerard Deulofeu, Adam Masina, Ben Foster and Ken Sema, The Hornets actually improved to the 11th spot. Meanwhile, the Toffees merely remained in 8th place. Aside from getting Dominic Calvert-Lewin back to full health (unless he follows Richarlison out the door as is rumored), it is now crucial that Everton replicate what Watford did by spending wisely if the Toffees wish to avoid another relegation scrap this season. Good luck, Frank Lampard & co., you are really going to need it.
The Bottom Line
An EPL side which truly aspires to challenge for trophies has to go two deep at every position, or at least at the most important spots. How many times have you tuned in to a Sky Blues game, glanced over at the star-studded bench and thought, their B-team could beat most other A-teams in the league. The top squads — Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea — are stocked up and down the roster with top quality depth. With the addition of Richarlison now following several other key signings, and with one or two more newcomers purportedly on the way, Tottenham is attempting to join that same elite level, or at least be in the ballpark.
A la Ivan Perišić, I expect Richarlison to be squarely in the category of brilliant signing for Tottenham but afterthought in fantasy due to concerns over regular playing time. With respect to FPL prospects, I think that Richarlison will probably at best only be an intriguing plug and play selection if Kane or Son miss extended time with injury or if Kulusevski experiences a sophomore dip in form.
[SOURCE NOTE: Understat, Transfermarkt, the official Premier League site and the official Fantasy Premier League site were used for statistical and other informational sources in the above post.]
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