Everton’s Brazilian forward Richarlison describes the visit of Tottenham on Sunday afternoon as a standout fixture in the calendar, even going so far as to use the word clásico. That might seem a bit strong, given the form of the two sides this season, though for the home side the game is certainly important.
Everton cannot afford to lose, for a sixth defeat in seven Premier League games would surely spell trouble for Marco Silva, the manager who brought Richarlison to Merseyside from Watford.
“We need to be moving up the table,” last season’s joint leading scorer says. “It has been difficult in the past few weeks but the coach can’t take all the blame. It is us that go out on to the pitch and we need to take responsibility.
“We are all under the same pressure and unfortunately the results aren’t happening. We were very frustrated by what happened at Brighton last week, both in the three minutes when the VAR penalty was being reviewed, then afterwards when it cost us the points. We had the game in our hands, then that penalty happened. It was an accident, maybe only VAR managed to see it, but we had three points within our reach, then within 10 minutes we lost them.”
Richarlison says the atmosphere in the dressing room was normal after the Brighton setback, though that was not the case three weeks earlier at Burnley, when another unexpected defeat led to an impromptu team meeting. “We lost 1-0 after conceding from a corner and we’d been training all week to defend corners,” he explains. “We’d studied Burnley, we knew that was their style of game, and we had conceded in five games from set pieces. So we got together as a group to ask what was happening, to see if we could identify what was going wrong.”
That led to a vastly improved performance against West Ham, although Manuel Pellegrini’s side were not the most challenging of opponents on the day, and unless Everton can rediscover their verve and tempo against Spurs it will begin to look as if they have little chance of beating any top-six sides, let alone joining them.
Dissatisfaction with the club’s position near the bottom is compounded by the fact that Liverpool are going so well at the top, and though Richarlison confesses it is not easy when three of his Brazil teammates are established at Anfield, he points out that Everton drew the most recent derby and lost the previous one only in the last minute.
While some Everton fans like to think Liverpool’s final draw of the season was the one that ultimately cost them the title, Richarlison believes the club should stand for more than merely being a thorn in their neighbours’ side. “Everton should be bigger than that, this is a club that needs to be up at the top, fighting for titles, looking for a Champions League place every season,” he says. “We need to grow, to bring new players on board to help us meet those objectives.”
At £35m rising to a possible £50m, Richarlison was signed as just such a statement of ambition, even if he was derided by Paul Merson at the time. “He said on Sky that I had ruined the transfer window,” Richarlison recalls. “Maybe he meant it was such a large fee for Everton to pay, but he didn’t know me or take any time to find out anything about me.
“I scored 20 goals last season, including those for the national team. So I sent him a thank you message on Twitter at the end, because that criticism gave me strength.”