As the halfway point of the Premier League season approaches, it must be said that Marco Silva’s Watford have been one of the league’s most exciting sides. Playing with a refreshing brand of attacking football, they are in ninth, and could end with a decent top-half finish. A key aspect behind Silva’s success has been his signings, and one, in particular, has caught the eye significantly.
Richarlison has been a revelation early in the season and his impressive form for Watford hasn’t gone unnoticed. Signed for £11 million from Fluminese, the Brazillian has been tipped for success, and his career so far has been remarkable. Born in Nova Venécia, a municipality state in Espírito Santo in the south of Brazil, he signed for América Mineiro, where he shone for one season, before moving to the big leagues with Fluminese. Donning their famous colours for another season-and-a-half, Richarlison attracted suitors after a fine return of 19 goals in 67 games. There were big names in for the youngster, but rather surprisingly, it was Watford who would make a solid move.
Richarlison: The Premier League’s Next Big Thing?
Use in the Watford Side
Despite moving to a new country and coming into one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world, Richarlison has settled into his new surroundings well. Marco Silva’s advanced use of the 4-2-3-1 formation has benefited the Brazilian’s abilities, and the Hornets are reaping the rewards. The Portuguese coach has continuously proven critics wrong, and his dynamic style is bringing the best out of his players
Silva’s style is simple: ensure fluidity in midfield and make the most of their width and their personnel is responding. Richarlison has proven to be the perfect fit for this system. He has also formed solid partnerships with left-backs José Holebas and Marvin Zeegelaar. Known for his important goals, Richarlison’s impact has mainly come off the ball, as his energy and robustness have made him crucial in Watford’s style of play. With the aim of creating space in attacking zones, their attack aims to disrupt opposition defences and they do this with quick, horizontal passes across their attacking line which includes Richarlison on the left, Andre Carillo on the right, Tom Cleverley or Roberto Pererya in the number 10 role, and Andre Gray or Troy Deeney leading the line.
Richarlison’s defensive impact has been mammoth too. Using the same energy that makes him so effective, he is important in Watford’s pressing game. He has won 1.9 tackles and succeeding in 4.3 aerial duels per game on average which is an impressive return for a left-sided player. That shouldn’t overshadow his attacking influence, for his four goals and five assists have contributed immensely to Watford’s success. Gracing most matches with utmost confidence, Richarlison takes on opposition defences with ease and that has been visible often.
His importance and stature in the Watford side has not gone unnoticed. Supported by a strong midfield, Richarlison has the freedom in attack to wreak havoc amongst opposition defences, and sides like Arsenal and Everton have felt his wrath. Against the Gunners, it was Héctor Bellerín who was constantly terrorised down his right flank, while against Everton, he was rampant in attack. It is worth noting that Richarlison won penalties in both those matches. This is a testament to his speed and trickery and shows how dangerous he can be while on the ball.
The pick of the bunch, though, was his showing at St. James’ Park against Newcastle United. Forming a menacing partnership on the left with Zeegelaar, the two were constant threats. They never gave the Newcastle defence a chance to breathe in a convincing 3-0 Watford success. If there was to be a statement match, this was it, as Richarlison proved his class in an unstoppable display.
However, just like every top-level footballer, there are off days, and Richarlison has had some of his own so far. The 20-year-old has often struggled against teams from the top six of the league and that was shown in the home clash against Manchester United which the Hornets lost 4-2, as Victor Lindelöf comfortably completed his task of nullifying the winger’s threat. A similar showing was replicated away at Chelsea, where Richarlison was quiet in another 4-2 defeat, even going on to miss two glorious goal scoring chances. Inconsistency is common amongst any player but maintaining form for prolonged periods is imperative.
For Richarlison, the help of coach Marco Silva has been vital, and he’s held his manager in high regard in the past: “He told me I was going to play and he knew all about my qualities and he wanted me. I didn’t think about it and I’m very glad I chose Watford. He gave me a lot of confidence over the phone — and that is not easy for a manager to do. I appreciated that a lot and he convinced me I was going to be very happy here. He was extremely important, especially because he speaks Portuguese. Understanding what the manager wants and how I should play has been very important.”
Watford deserve a lot of praise for their willingness to take a risk with Richarlison. Very rarely do clubs purchase players from outside Europe’s top five leagues. For the Hornets to do it with an unproven, untested 20-year-old was a huge gamble, but early on, it’s paying off well. Similarly, Gabriel Jesus falls in a situation just like Richarlison’s, and with a better atmosphere, he has taken full advantage. Richarlison can take motivation from that, and very soon, he could be at a bigger club himself.
The forward is attracting interest from the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, and if his form continues, and he’s able to book a ticket to the World Cup, his stock will continue to rise. For Watford, this was a cunning investment, and in the coming years, it could pay back very well. They took a risk, handled their player smartly and are reaping the rewards in abundance. Richarlison has been a revelation, and he could well be the Premier League’s next big thing.