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On 8th August 2017, it would be safe to say that most Watford fans would have been searching for videos of their new signing. Richarlison’s exposure within European football was minimal. His £11.5 million signing from Brazilian club Fluminense was a bit of a surprise, but not as surprising as his impact on his new club.

Watford started the summer by appointing their new manager, Marco Silva. His arrival at Hull City in the previous season sparked controversy across traditional media. A feeling of xenophobia was emitted from one opinion to the next. In no uncertain words, Silva was being deemed unfit to manage in the Premier League. This was not to be the case.

Silva’s stock was high after the remarkable job he did at Hull City. Underspending in the summer along with the club’s ownership troubles left Silva with a great deal to do. Although he couldn’t keep the relegation strugglers in the league, it was seen as an achievement to amass the points that he did in his short time there.

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The now Watford boss Silva began his summer with the acquisitions of the English duet Will Hughes (from Derby County) and Nathaniel Chalobah (from Chelsea), before he set his sights on the Brazilian starlet. Richarlison’s full debut the against Bournemouth was marked with his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win. Supporters were already seeing the potential of their South American prodigy.

After their first loss of the season – a 6-0 demolition by the rampant Manchester City – many expected Watford to return to type. However, Richarlison had different ideas. The young attacker gave himself a reputation for effecting games in the dying moments, scoring a last second winner against Swansea before a 95th minute equaliser the following week.

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Richarlison’s most recent and telling contribution came against Arsenal. The forward breezed past the electric Hector Bellerin before going down under the contact of the Spanish international’s challenge. Although the legitimacy of the penalty came under dispute, Richarlison’s drive forced his opponent to commit early to prevent a shot on goal.

The Watford captain Troy Deeney then converted the penalty to make it 1-1. Not only was this an equalising goal against one of the traditional top 4, it was the catalyst for the Hornets to take control of the tie. Watford began to create chances more frequently, putting the Gunners under immense pressure. In the 92nd minute, a goal mouth scramble allowed ex-Manchester United midfield Tom Cleveley to smash the ball into the roof of the net and give Watford the three points. This match marked the third consecutive game where Watford have scored a decisive goal on or beyond the 90th minute, a Premier League first.

Despite Richarlison’s ability to be a match winner, it is not the strongest element to his game. The Brazilian’s defensive work rate has allowed him to become a prominent figure in the starting 11. Impressively, Richarlison ranks joint 3rd in the Premier League’s attackers for tackling, with a respectable 21.His technical ability in this area is further demonstrated with his tackling accuracy – an outstanding 72% (21 out of 29 attempted). Another almost under appreciated aspect of Richarlison’s game is his interceptions. This has already come to the fore during his time at Watford, ranking 2nd in the league amongst his attacking peers.

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Positive attributes aside, there are still elements of his game to improve upon. As a dribbler he has a tendency to hold onto the ball and attempt to beat his opponent. But with only a 50% success rate having attempted the 3rd most dribbles in the Premier League (32), developments are required on the training ground.

Decision making is key when the ball enters the opposition’s final third. Richarlison’s issue is not his dribbling ability, but his choice of when to release the ball during an attacking move. This is reflected in his success rate whilst running with the ball, but also directly affects his passing. The Brazilian finds himself within the bottom 25 players in the Premier League for passing accuracy with 66% (not including goalkeepers). This could be attributed to his inclination to dribble when in possession. When put under pressure, passes tend to be rushed and therefore misplaced. If his choices whilst in possession improved, it would be likely to see his statistics alter accordingly.

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Watford’s consistent start to the season is not down to one individual’s performance. However, it is clear that the Hornets have acquired another one of the many South American gems available to European clubs. With a friendly game against England in the offing, rumours are now circulating of a potential call up for the Brazil National team. A full debut in familiar surroundings would prove a suitable reward for his blistering start since joining his new club. Whether Richarlison gains his first senior cap now or not, the steady incline of his evolution will definitely be one to watch closely.

 

Josh Jones – Trigger the Press

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