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Arsenal Transfer Rumor: Richarlison

Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus (?), what’s another Brazilian attacker among friends, really?

Everton v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Arsenal are interested in a summer transfer window move for Everton attacker Richarlison, according to the Daily Mail. The Brazilian scored 10 goals and added 5 assists in 30 Premier League matches this season, carrying the bulk of the Toffees’ offensive load and helping them stave off relegation. Tottenham and Manchester United are also said to be interested in moving for the 25-year old.

Richarlison was guarded recently when asked about his future.

I’ve already made it clear to the board. I’ve already talked to Lampard too, with my agents and they know what I want. Let’s wait for June. Now I can’t talk, because when we talk about leaving a club I’m kind of like this, because of the history I have at Everton, the affection that the fans have for me. When we talk about leaving I’m a little speechless.

Is that a hint that he wants to leave? Sure seems like one to me. I think there is a pretty good chance he moves this summer. Everton aren’t in the best financial shape — they have by far the most debt of any club in the Premier League, so much that Burnley and Leeds wrote to the PL requesting they investigate whether the Toffees have broken the financial rules. The approximately £50M he would fetch would help alleviate some of the club’s woes. It also feels as if Richarlison has reached his ceiling with Everton. He’s an established Brazilian international — he should be playing in Europe and competing for domestic trophies.

His attacking numbers are unimpressive when compared to forwards (but they do get somewhat better when compared to wingers / midfielders). Given that Dominic Calvert-Lewin spent most of the season injured and Richarlison was the focal point of the Everton attack and opposing defenses, I’m not sure how heavily to weigh his stats. He really didn’t have much to work with in terms of attacking partners, his team finished in the bottom third in terms of goals scored, and barely avoided the drop. I think even the best attacker in the world would struggle to shine in those circumstances.

His pressing and defensive numbers are eye-popping, but again, there’s the difficult task of separating who Richarlison actually is as a player from what was borne of necessity. Everton didn’t have much of the ball, so naturally he’s going to be making more defensive actions. I rate his defensive abilities and think they’ll translate / stick around if he moves. He’s a dogged-presser and quite good at winning the ball back, both important qualities in the modern game.

Is Richarlison a fit for Arsenal? Tough to say. He’s a bit of a tweener in terms of position. He’s not an out-and-out striker, although he has played there a fair bit, especially with DCL spending most of the season hurt at Everton. Richarlison is not going to displace Bukayo Saka as first choice right wing. And he’s not a creator in the way that Martin Ødegaard is for the right-side #8 role.

On the other hand, he’s a good (perhaps great) player. Adding talented attackers is a smart thing to do, especially for a goal-starved Arsenal club. I’ve gone back and forth on my Richarlison rating several times over the past two or three seasons, but I keep coming back to his ability to dominate an attacking move, which is tough to capture with just data.

By that I mean it feels as if at least once a game he will create a scoring chance more or less on his own. Whether it’s by dribbling a defender, overpowering one with strength, beating someone with speed, a passing combination, what have you, he gets into this “I’m going to make something happen here” mode that a lot of players don’t have. Imagine that quality surrounded by better teammates who pull defensive focus off him and provide him with attacking options.

Richarlison also has attitude. He’s a fiery player. That can be both good and bad. He’s the type of guy that you love to have on your team and hate when he’s playing against you. He winds up opponents and can get a bit too wound-up himself, as well. Either way, there is a lot of fight in his game.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters because I don’t think he ends up at Arsenal. Mostly because it seems as if the club’s transfer focus from an attacking standpoint is fixated on Gabriel Jesus with Eddie Nketiah re-signing to be his backup. If the move for Gabriel Jesus falls through, however, Richarlison might be a secondary option. Moving for both this summer is the kind of thing Arsenal might have been able to swing if they’d made the Champions League. Oh well.