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Richarlison: The figurehead of Carlo Ancelotti's successful turnaround at Everton

Richarlison: The figurehead of Carlo Ancelotti's successful turnaround at Everton

Only Liverpool have won more points than the Toffees since Marco Silva was sacked.

THINK of the most promising young forwards in Europe right now and your brain will probably snap back with “Kylian Mbappe… Jadon Sancho… Erling Haaland. NEXT.” Congrats to your brain.

If you really want to test it, though, ask who the top scoring players aged under 23 in the top five European leagues since the start of last season are. Kylian Mbappe and Jadon Sancho, yes, but clearly not Erling Haaland (not yet anyway) as he’s only just moved to the Bundesliga.

Hmm, Marcus Rashford? Well, yes, but his total is boosted by his semi-official responsibilities at the penalty spot for a club who get a lot of penalties. Remove spot-kicks and there in third place is Richarlison with 21, which is impressive for an Everton player, as opposed to gilded youngsters at perennial title contenders like Paris Saint-Germain or Borussia Dortmund.

It’s even possible your mind’s eye can’t envisage Richarlison scoring an actual goal, such is his overall commitment to team play, but go and tell that to Wolves, who have conceded four to the Brazilian in only 266 minutes, or Brighton (three in six hours). Both of those teams are known for sitting relatively deep and so the one-man cottage industry that is Richarlison thrives in the maelstrom.

Check out his shot map for this season, with an extraordinary amount of efforts from in and around the penalty spot (and a 100% conversion rate in the six yard box, to be fair). This is a man who can hold his own in the 18 yard box. Apropos of something, one club who struggle to win aerials these days/all days are Barcelona and… wait, they supposedly bid for who in the transfer window?

It would be outlandish if you weren’t now convinced of Richarlison’s multi-faceted value but if you want more evidence here it is: this season he has made 54 tackles, 14 more than any other forward in the top five European leagues, with Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick in second place.

McGoldrick, who is an equally hardworking and important player to his club, has been described as a non-Brazilian Roberto Firmino without the goals, which must make Richarlison a Brazilian Roberto Firmino with goals who plays for a club based in Liverpool. Er, this narrowing-down process can be harder than it looks.

All of which makes Richarlison, alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a rightful figurehead in Carlo Ancelotti’s box fresh Everton team. Ancelotti, who grew up making parmesan cheese on his family’s farm, remains possibly the best manager on the continent to come into a club and add just one or two delicate ingredients to a squad to take it from pedestrian to sumptuous, and yes, he seems to be doing it again at Goodison Park.

One week he’s telling Theo Walcott to be more brave, the next Walcott is popping up at Vicarage Road with a 90th minute winner as Everton come from two goals down. Since Ancelotti took charge of his first match on Boxing Day, only Liverpool (17.5) and Manchester City (15.4) have created chances with a higher Expected Goals value than Everton (13.4). Like all varieties of cheese, Ancelotti has a definite shelf life but when he’s doing what he does best, he makes everything, including life itself, taste better.

This weekend Everton take on a Crystal Palace team with the second lowest xG in the division since their new manager took over, and who, without their regular supply of penalties, are sinking ever closer to the relegation zone, in other words an ideal opportunity for Ancelotti’s team to continue their unlikely bid for European football.

Only eight points outside the top four, above them are inconsistent heavyweights like Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United and hopeful outsiders like Wolves and Sheffield United. All of those sides have European and/or domestic cup duties though, potentially opening the door for Richarlison, Ancelotti, the rest of the Everton team, the impresario community and the builders getting ready to construct The Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium a huge confidence boost ahead of what promises to be an exciting 2020-21.







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Duncan Alexander
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