Can Richarlison continue to lead the line effectively for Everton

Everton (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

With the continued absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison’s performance up front for Everton against Arsenal was particularly significant.

One of the issues successive Everton managers have had with the Brazil international, is to work what is his best position? It’s a question whose answer is still not entirely clear.

He has plenty of pace and power to his game and has developed into an excellent header of the ball as Monday night’s game underlined.

When he first signed Richarlison was generally playing as a wide attacker and although often inconsistent, there were times when he looked very threatening and effective in that position.

The manager who brought him to Goodison Park, Marco Silva, tried different formations in an effort to get the balance of his side right and shifted the ex-Watford forward around, which probably didn’t help him find his best role.

In the recent past Richarlison has played wide in a forward three, as he did at the start of last season, or behind and off Calvert-Lewin in a two-man strikeforce and also occasionally up top on his own.

Usually when playing as a lone striker he has struggled somtimes to occupy defenders enough and also isn’t a natural at playing with his back to goal and holding the ball up (although he is able to do it) all of which are key elements of that role in a team like the current Toffees’ side.

Again, this season he’s been asked to lead the line at times with the seemingly endless absence of Calvert-Lewin and Salomon Rondon’s lack of effectiveness meaning Rafa Benitez has few other options apart from Ellis Simms, who he doesn’t seem to want to play.

It’s been frustrating for him and he’s often been isolated working alone up front. That has led to him venting his exasperation with the lack of support and goal-scoring opportunites with petulant fouls, picking up yellow cards and then a subsequent suspension.

On Monday night though I think he had his best and most effective match for Everton since returning from a hectic summer of international commitments.

He was largely operating on his own at centre-forward against the Gunners although Demarai Gray, Anthony Gordon and to less extent Andros Townsend did link up with and support him.

As he always does the Brazilian worked hard and he proved himself a nusance to the Arsenal defence being a really effective thorn in their side.

In addition, he looked sharp in front of goal and of course had the ball in the net three times with only one of them counting in the end because of the intervention of VAR.

Now, the question is can he replicate that superb all-round performance in the next few upcoming fixtures at Crystal Palace and Chelsea with Calvert-Lewin still likely absent from both games?

I have mentioned before the need for Everton to play a more modern, high-tempo and dynamic type of football.

This requires a flexible and fluid type of attack that perhaps ultimately doesn’t include a traditional centre-forward like Calvert-Lewin.

Richarlison’s performance against Arsenal and the way the team generally played, hints that this might be possible and represents a way forward, at least until the team’s England centre-forward is finally fit again.