It is one of the enduring mysteries of the universe that certain clubs can go for years – decades – without having any good players in a particular position. For Liverpool it was left-backs, a problem that Andrew Robertson has now solved. Both Manchester United and Arsenal struggled for years to replace midfield battlers Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. And Everton have only had one good striker in the last 30 years.
Andrei Kanchelskis scored 16 league goals for Everton in the Premier League’s first 20-team, 38-game season in 1995/96, a seasonal tally that only Romelu Lukaku has beaten since (twice) for the Toffees. The list of players for other clubs to have passed 16 goals in that time includes Michael Bridges, Marcus Stewart, Mikael Forssel, Benni McCarthy, Clint Dempsey, Yakubu, Michu, Charlie Austin andDele Alli.
Lukaku is the only Everton player of the entire Premier League era to have hit at least 20 goals in a season; for context, that mark has been passed 72 times in the division’s 26 full seasons. You have to go all the way back to 1986 to find the previous man to better Kanchelskis’ 16: Gary Lineker hit 30 to win the Golden Boot that year.
This is not for want of trying. Cenk Tosun, Oumar Niasse, Nikica Jelavic, Samuel Eto’o, Jermaine Beckford, Louis Saha, Jo and Yakubu have all arrived over the past decade to little-to-moderate effect. Last year they turned to the returning shadow of Wayne Rooney; he finished as their top scorer with 10 league goals. Lukaku’s four-year spell was beginning to feel like a pleasant dream, his departure last summer a brutal awakening back into everyday reality. Yet even Lukaku was not universally popular with the Everton fans, often facing accusations of being one-dimensional, claims that made Daniel Storey cry frequently and hilariously.
Thank god for Richarlison, then. The Brazilian, who arrived this summer to reunite with his old Watford gaffer Marco Silva, now has six goals already this season, putting him just one goal behind league top scorers Eden Hazard (two of whose were penalties) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and level with Sergio Aguero. Had he not missed two games for picking up a stupid red card against Bournemouth, he may very well be leading the chase for the Golden Boot.
His goals against Brighton showed why he is so dangerous. There are few strikers in the Premier League at the moment who exhibit such a brightness of thought in their movement. Richarlison made exactly the right run to pick up Gylfi Sigurdsson’s excellent pass for the first goal, and then read Lewis Dunk’s intentions superbly to cut out an attempted square pass across the back four, intercept the ball, and race past Shane Duffy before finding the bottom corner.
His quality of finishing, too, is excellent at the moment. Of all the forwards in the league, only Anthony Martial (62.5%) and Aubameyang (43.8%) have a better shot conversion rate (excluding penalties) than Richarlison’s 42.9%. His first strike against Brighton was especially excellent: a characteristically powerful effort into the roof of the net that no goalkeeper would ever have saved, such was the venom behind it.
If he keeps scoring at his current rate, Richarlison will become just the second Everton player in 32 years era to hit the net 20 times in a season. Everton have long striven to make the Big Six into a Big Seven; in Richarlison, they actually have a striker who can help make that a reality.
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