Why Richarlison Tottenham offers so much more than showboat theatrics

Richarlison charges forward during Saturday's game against Fulham - Why Richarlison offers Tottenham so much more than showboat theatrics - GETTY IMAGES

Richarlison charges forward during Saturday’s game against Fulham – Why Richarlison offers Tottenham so much more than showboat theatrics – GETTY IMAGES

Occasionally annoying, often exhilarating and always entertaining: Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison is no different from Everton’s Richarlison and the Brazilian’s full debut in north London provided a clear explanation of why Antonio Conte thought he was worth £60million this summer .

If Richarlison caused a stir last week for his showboating against Nottingham Forest, it was his all-around display that caught the eye this week. Even then, he found time for more ridicule when he was booked for a goal that was subsequently ruled for offside for removing his jersey. The yellow stands, the gate does not.

To be clear, Conte wasn’t overly concerned by this particular incident. He preferred to talk about Richarlison’s excellent performance, both with and without the ball. Richarlison played on the right side of Spurs attack and, in place of the rested Dejan Kulusevski, provided a level of attacking quality and defensive snarl necessary for defeating a struggling Fulham was crucial.

Richarlison - Why Richarlison Tottenham offers so much more than showboat theatrics - GETTY IMAGES

Richarlison – Why Richarlison Tottenham offers so much more than showboat theatrics – GETTY IMAGES

On another day, Richarlison might have left Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a couple of goals and a hat-trick of assists. He linked beautifully with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in the Spurs front line, drifting into positions that presented all sorts of awkward questions from Fulham’s defenders and attacking aggressively throughout.

It was his delicate pass late in the first half that allowed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to score the opening goal. Richarlison also hit the post with an artful volley in the second half before his late tap-in was canceled.

Perhaps even more exciting for Conte was Richarlison’s defensive work. He led the resistance from the front, flying into tackles and generally irritating Fulham defenders whenever he could. The forward won more tackles than any other Spurs player, while only midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur recovered the ball more often in the game.

When Spurs came under pressure late after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s last goal for Fulham – his sixth in six games – it was primarily Richarlison who provided the energy and intelligence to slow down the clock and snag Fulham’s momentum.

“Richy is a strong player,” said Conte afterwards. “You can feel him when he’s on the pitch. You feel his personality. He is a warrior, a fighter. We need that type of player.”

Richarlison is capable of playing in any of the three attacking positions in Conte’s system – left, right or center – and it should be a source of excitement for Spurs that he’s doing so in such a different way to Son, Kulusevski and Kane .

For example, the Brazilian interpreted the right flank very differently to the more traditional winger Kulusevski on Saturday. Richarlison mostly played in more central areas, combining with Kane, and also showed a willingness to switch to the other flank. As he thrust to the left, he took Tosin Adarabioyo by surprise and the Fulham defender fell to the ground as the ball rolled through his legs.

Conte says he’s “relaxed” with Richarlison’s game

Conte described himself as “relaxed” by Richarlison’s performance. This will be a long, grueling season for Spurs, who start their Champions League campaign against Marseille on Wednesday night, and the Italian knows he has to change his front line regularly.

Richarlison’s performance on his first start is proof to Conte and everyone else that Spurs can change their attacking lineup without weakening the team. Only Son created more than Richarlison’s four chances and no Spurs player dribbled as often as the Brazilian.

“Richy played really well and that makes me more relaxed,” said Conte. “Because if you play every three days, sometimes you have to give it a little rest. I use him in all three positions up front. As No. 9 and No. 10 right or left. In the previous game he played in Son’s position and against Fulham he played in Deki’s position [Kulusevski] Position. I enjoyed the fact that he worked a lot to understand our ideas quickly.”

Part of the reason Richarlison has taken so long to start a game is because he was suspended for the opening game after throwing a flare in the stands for Everton last season. This is typical of a character who is so unpredictable and chaotic, but these qualities also make him so effective as a player.

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