When Tottenham got Richarlison last summer, he seemed destined to be the finishing piece to a title contender. The Brazilian had just carried Everton to safety the season before and was now ready to take the next leap.
Instead, Tottenham’s marquee signing has found the back of the net once in the Prem.
For a few years, Richarlison lit up the Prem, elevating the play of lower-table teams with his flair. Tottenham was, seemingly, the perfect place for him to continue to grow.
One of the biggest reasons for his failure to get going has been the way he’s been used. On previous teams, Richarlison was the focal point that everything was forced to. Rather than being the poacher, he is now forced to be involved with creating chances.
Looking back at the move, it was always a risk. Conte, who was the manager at the time, struck gold with the two-forward combo of Kane and Son. Richarlison was never going to start over either of those players, so he had to either come off the bench or play on the wing.
Richarlison is still young and has time to reach his full potential, but that might have to be elsewhere. Due to a mixture of things he both can and can’t control, the Brazilian has seen a season go to waste.
As he began to make a name for himself, Richarlison dazzled fans with his flair and ability to deliver top performances. Previous managers saw this and built their attacks around the promising Brazilian.
With the Brazilian national team and a fair amount of time in the Prem, Richarlison has been deployed as the sole striker. Surrounding him are wingers and midfielders whose main goal is to create and not score. In turn, this allows Richarlison the chance to use his technical ability to finish off plays.
He plays best when he’s allowed to be on the ball with only the idea of burying a goal in his mind. While he has played on the wing, his focus is still on scoring from the wing rather than creating for fellow forwards. Last season with Everton, he even showed an ability to create for himself and single-handedly score.
To be fair to Richarlison, this style has worked for both the player and the team. He has proven it on the biggest stage by scoring one of the goals of the 2022 World Cup.
There is enough evidence to show that the Brazilian is an elite scorer and can elevate sides. Everton would be in the Championship had it not been for his performances, and he kept Brazil alive with Neymar out. Any top club would have loved to sign him last summer, given what he brings to a side.
It’s not to say that Richarlison is the second coming of R9, but he can be the finishing piece to a title team. Not to compare him to the iconic Luis Suárez, but Suárez was the perfect addition to that Barça side which conquered Europe. Ideally, his best role will be the poacher for a team loaded with creativity.
Richarlison is a poacher’s poacher; he’s not a threat like a Mario Mandzukić or a creator in the manner of Son. In a lot of ways, he’s like a more technically gifted Higuaín, and that’s high praise.
Truthfully, Conte and Tottenham did not need Richarlison. With Kane and Son leading the line in Conte’s two-person front line, he would never be given a real chance.
Conte’s forward system demands one of his strikers to sacrifice in order to open space for the rest of the offense. At Juve, he had Llorente do this, and at Inter, he used Lukaku, even though the Belgian would still find ways to score. The other forward, or forwards, tended to be smaller and speedier who could latch onto chances.
Kane would play the role of the striker who used his body to create space, while Son would play in that space. Richarlison couldn’t fit into either position and isn’t good enough to replace either of those two. This forces him to the bench, where he has struggled to find any semblance of consistency.
Even with Conte gone, it’s been hard to fit him in the starting eleven. If Spurs decide to play a 4-3-3, Son plays on the left, which is the only other position that Richarlison has excelled at. Playing him on the right forces him to be more creative, which plays into his weaknesses.
Perhaps another manager could find a way to fit all three of them together, but it’s going to take all three to sacrifice. Given Tottenham’s ambitions and the pedigrees of Kane and Son, they shouldn’t be asked to sacrifice for the youngster. Tottenham needed another creative force in the forward line, while Richarlison needed a club where he was the first or second option.
Unfortunately for both parties, this may be a case of a good player going to the wrong situation. As long as both Kane and Son, who are both on another level, are at the London club, it’s impossible to see Richarlison finding a role there.
Plenty of players struggle in their first season, but the spotlight was always going to be on Richarlison. Not only had he lit up the Prem before, but he was also going to a club with ambition. Now, he will need to find a way to bounce back in his second season to avoid the bust label.
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