Richarlison Proves He's the Real Diamond in Everton's Crown With Stellar Display Against Fulham

Max Cooper
Easy like a Sunday morning
Easy like a Sunday morning / Pool/Getty Images

Finally, the early Premier League pace-setters are back to winning ways. Four games, three defeats, (one to Newcastle United) and a whole bunch of half-formed, top-four dreams later, Everton have put three points on the board.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti was able to pick from an almost full-strength pool of players on Sunday against Fulham, which crucially saw the return of star winger Richarlison. And boy, was it obvious how much they'd missed him?

During the Brazilian's three-game absence through suspension, the Toffees failed miserably to dispel the unwanted record of never winning a game without Richarlison since his arrival in 2018, slipping to back-to-back-to-back defeats to Southampton, the aforementioned Magpies, and Manchester United.

As if to prove his worth to the side, the 23-year-old chose to lay down a marker after only 30 seconds at Craven Cottage, offering a timely reminder of his value to Ancelotti. Collecting the ball outside of the penalty area, Richarlison put his head down and charged into the box. He hustled and bustled his way into a crossing position, and put a delivery into the six-yard box which the Cottagers couldn't defend.

They couldn't defend a lot, in fairness, but still, Richarlison forced the issue.

He almost notched a goal of his own soon after, linking up brilliantly with star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to devastating effect. The forward won the first ball against his defender, nodding into the path of his partner in crime, who in turn repaid the favour.

From that moment on, it looked like it was game, set and match. Richarlison twisted, shimmied, dropped a shoulder and made space to shoot, but somehow missed the bottom corner. He did draw a great save from Alphonse Areola, but he should have added to this season's tally of one league goal.

Richarlison looking cheery as always
Richarlison looking cheery as always / Pool/Getty Images

So, three goals in the match, but only one assist from the Brazil international. How is he the most important component in this Everton side, then, when he is surrounded by goalscoring extraordinaire Calvert-Lewin and playmaking magician James Rodriguez?

Well, it's his intelligence that really captures the imagination - the things he doesn't do are just as impressive as the things he does. Nor is it his individual performance that necessarily stands out, but how much he improves the game of those around him.

And this is key. When any other player is missing from the starting XI, the Toffees sorely miss 100% of that individual's ability and impact on the game. When Richarlison is unavailable, every other attacking player in the team also loses a good 20% of their own potential output.

It's no coincidence that all three of Everton's goals came down the left-hand side on Sunday, and while our star man only provided one of them, he was instrumental in the invention of the others.

The dancing queens
The dancing queens / Pool/Getty Images

His desire to drift around the front three and attack spaces makes him a constant threat, not offering his opponents a second's rest. Richarlison pulled the entire Fulham backline out of shape for the second goal, by wandering over to the right wing, and creating the pocket for Alex Iwobi to attack.

As every defender shifted across the pitch to accommodate this switch, Digne was handed the freedom of Craven Cottage's left wing to plant a ball into the box and into the path of Everton's greedy Calvert-Lewin.

It was so, so well worked. The same could be said for the third goal, too. When James collected the ball in the centre of the field, all eyes were on the destination of his next mind-boggling pass. Richarlison was lurking centrally, with a triangle of opponents surrounding him.

His mere presence caused the full-back Ola Aina to switch off, and when Digne charged forward from wing-back there was only going to be one outcome. Abdoulaye Doucoure crashed a header past the goalkeeper, and that was that.

Everton were forced to work hard for their win in the end, but it was nothing less than they deserved off the back of their first-half showing alone. At the front and centre of it, was Richarlison.

His red card against Liverpool has cost the Toffees dearly over the past month, and had Ancelotti not already known that this moody maverick was actually his talisman, then he will have learned it pretty damn quickly on Sunday.

Keep him sweet, Carlo, and you won't go far wrong.