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From the Handbook: Richarlison

This profile was originally published in our digital-only handbook, Scouted Football Handbook Three, released in March 2018. You can download it – in full, for free – right here. Enjoy.

Credit: Richard Heathcote, Getty Images

CAREER IN REVIEW


From Fluminense directly to the Premier League: Richarilson skipped the stop-over and boarded a direct flight to the English top tier. Whilst many Brazilian prospects use the likes of Spain, France, Ukraine or the Netherlands to get their first taste of European football, this particular 20-year-old made the bold step of going straight to one of the continent’s top leagues.


Richarlison had started the 2017 Brasilerão by scoring five goals in 14 games and was the top scoring U-20 player in his home country. Interest from within Brazil and abroad was to be expected and despite resisting the initial approaches from Gabriel Jesus’ former side Palmeiras in June, it was only matter of time before another club proposed an offer too good to turn down.


In more traditional fashion, it was a brief spell in the Eredivisie that had looked the most likely. Had it not been for a juicy sell-on clause combined with a phone call from now departed Watford manager Marco Silva—this will come up again later—then Richarlison would be playing for Ajax alongside compatriot David Neres, rather than turning out for the Hornets in the Premier League.


Despite how fast the £11.5 million move to Vicarage Road materialised, the Brazilian seemed to settle instantly, turning heads with his early displays; at the half-way stage he had scored five goals and provided a further four assists. Richarlison quickly became the focal point under Marco Silva and he thrived under the responsibility. His direct and aggressive approach garnished with a dash of typical Brazilian flair excited the fans and manifested into plenty of rumours about his future.


STYLE OF PLAY


Richarlison is perhaps one of the roughest diamonds—talent-wise—in this handbook. The former Fluminense winger is also an incredibly intriguing player from a data point of view and given the fact he has been playing in the Premier League, there is greater access to his statistical output. Using such data paints a fascinating picture of the type of player Richarlison is and the role he plays.


On the surface, he is a left-winger who focuses on the increasingly popular skill of cutting inside from the touch-line to create chances for team-mates or fashion opportunities to shoot himself. Richarlison is quick, powerful and skilful, all combining to make him dangerous in transition as well as an effective out-ball; a pseudo target man if you will. As a result, the Brazilian is either leading or in the top three of almost every metric imaginable amongst his team-mates, all of which help paint the picture of an all-action winger with the potential to do almost anything on the pitch whilst fulfilling multiple roles for his side.


Despite being signed in the summer, Richarlison was the only Watford player to appear in each of their opening 28 Premier League games, amassing the second-most minutes in the process. His five goals and four assists in that time see him second and first in the club ranking respectively, but it is the metrics beyond direct contribution which are the most telling.

To date, the Brazilian has had more shots (79) than the next two Watford players combined, 78.5% of which have come from inside the box. He has attempted more dribbles (82), contested more aerial duels (236) and attempt-ed the third-most tackles (72) of any Watford player, a trio of statistics that help illustrate his physical presence and also the volume of possession and action he sees compared to his team-mates; throw in the fact he has won more fouls (80) than any other player in the Premier League at this time and his play-style becomes even clearer.


Whilst the sheer volume of Richarlison’s output in each metric is staggering, the only issue with it is the winger’s success rate across the board: dribbling stands at 46.3 percent; shot accuracy comes in at 20.3 percent; aerial duels measures at 43.6 percent. The fact that most, if not all, of Richarlison’s output function below the 50 percent success rate mark is telling of his age and lack of experience.


Yet, at 20 years old, it would be unfair to expect the finished article, especially given the fact it is his first season in European football, let alone the Premier League. The conclusion that should be made from this remarkable amassing of metrics is that Richarlison has all the tools to become one of the most complete players in the Pre-mier League. The marriage of technique and flair when it comes to his direct, individualistic style in attack with a robust, relentless and physically imposing presence in his overall approach to the game not only makes him a perfect fit for the Premier League—and a side like Watford at this moment in time—but also a forward with an extremely high ceiling.


FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE


Being the revolving door of managerial appointments Watford is, Vicarage Road may not be the best place for Richarlison to reach his full potential in the long-term. Being as talented as he is however, his place in the Watford side is guaranteed giving the dearth of attacking options available. Yet the fact he seemed so disappointed with the departure of Marco Silva, leaping to defend him after he left the club, suggests that whether Richarlison ends up following suit seems more a case of when rather than if. Depending on how he finishes the 2017/18 season, it could well be this summer.

Credit: Robbie Jay Barratt, Getty Images

Should that next move take the Brazilian to a top-six club or somewhere similar in Europe he would arguably see a lower percentage of the ball and his output in all areas would most likely fall because of it. However, given that he has established himself as Watford’s primary attacking force in his first season at the club, and whilst operating from the left, there are encouraging signs to suggest he could become the fulcrum of any side he wishes to.


If the right club can give him the platform to refine his output and foster a more efficient use of his many attacking tools, then it makes complete sense to see him succeeding at the top level both for club and country in the near future. The worry though, is that too many bad habits seep into his game and wastefulness defines his career.

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