The Fantasy Premier League (FPL) appeal of Emerson Royal (£5.0m) is assessed as we take a closer look at Tottenham Hotspur’s new attack-minded Brazilian right-back.
The mid-price FPL defender scored four goals and assisted a further 10 in 76 La Liga appearances prior to his deadline-day move, mostly for Real Betis. Jordi Alba (16) was the only full-back to be involved in more Spanish top-flight goals than Royal (14) since the start of 2019/20.
Royal will be joining the division’s in-form defence, who have banked three successive clean sheets.
He’ll also provide competition for current incumbent Japhet Tanganga (£4.6m) and Matt Doherty (£4.9m) at right-back, with Serge Aurier (£4.9m) now having left the club by mutual consent.
Born in Sao Paulo in January 1999, Emerson Royal progressed through Brazilian club Ponte Preta’s academy system and made his senior debut as a teenager before moving to Atletico Mineiro in April 2018.
Snapped up in a ‘co-ownership’ deal by Real Betis and Barcelona less than a year later, the right-back was to spend two-and-a-half seasons with the former before the Catalan giants exercised their option to sign him for €9m this summer – promptly flogging him to Spurs, after just three La Liga appearances for Barca, for nearly three times as much money.
At an international level, Royal featured for his country in the under-20s and under-23s before earning the first of four Brazil caps in November 2019.
Returning to the national team fray this summer, he featured in three of Selecao’s Copa America 2021 games.
Emerson Royal’s League Career Stats
|2020/21||Real Betis||La Liga||34||1||4|
|2019/20||Real Betis||La Liga||33||3||6|
|2018/19||Real Betis||La Liga||6||0||0|
|2018||Atletico Mineiro||Série A||23||1||1|
|2017||Ponte Preta||Série A||2||0||0|
Spurs and their fanbase will be wishing for a happy medium between the occasionally kamikaze Aurier and more natural centre-half Tanganga, which seems to be what Royal can offer on paper.
An athletic, pacy, forward-thinking full-back with some lingering question marks over his defensive ability, his skillset would appear to veer more towards the now-departed Ivorian.
His one and only start for Barcelona in August, indeed, saw him incur the wrath of Ronald Koeman and hooked after the hour-mark.
The testimonies range from “Brazil’s [future] first-choice right-back” to “shaky”; perhaps unsurprising given that we’re talking about a relatively inexperienced defender who faced the daunting task of following in the footsteps of – and inviting lazy comparisons with – his countryman and idol, Dani Alves.
“His athleticism is mainly what makes him so great. Emerson is a very powerful runner. He has plenty of pace to keep up with opposition wide players and seems to always be able to dig deep and find that second wind late in games.
“He’s good in the air and given his height (6ft), he usually has an immediate advantage over shorter wingers. He’s also deceptively strong despite his relatively slender, almost lanky body. He has long legs and that helps him when jockeying for possession.
“He has a great understanding of how to adjust his body when fighting to win the ball. His timing and success rate on tackles is one of his biggest strengths and his ability to correctly anticipate the trajectory of the ball means he’s almost always in a great position to compete in the air.” – Andrew Miller, Real Betis reporter
“He went to the Copa America even though he was very young and in two or three years can be Brazil’s first-choice right-back. He just needs to keep improving and maintain his focus. He has skills to be at the level that Spurs need.
“For a team that defends more and tries to attack really fast, he can be a good weapon. The way that he plays will fit very well in the Premier League and with Nuno’s style — he’s better playing on the counter-attack.
“He can cross, he can shoot from outside the area. If he has a good connection with (Harry) Kane and Son (Heung-min), he will improve the team a lot.” – Marcelo Bechler, Barcelona-based Brazilian journalist
“He’s an attacking right-back, a strapping figure in the mould of Maicon, which might not impress Tottenham fans as much.
“To be fair to him, his career so far has been a little bit shaky. He was a reserve in Brazil, he played for Brazil at under-20 level but not very well.
“Barcelona picked him up on promise but didn’t really use him. Couple of seasons at Betis, not a lot the first season but better the second season and he’s on the fringes of the Brazil squad where they have a problem at right-back.
“So far it’s much, much more promise than reality. Tottenham are paying a lot of money for him so it’s time now for the man named after jelly to stand up straight and put some solidity in that career.” – South American football correspondent Tim Vickery
THE UNDERLYING STATS v SPURS DEFENDERS: 2020/21
|Name||Minutes Per Chance||Minutes Per Chances Created|
The new Spurs signing racked up an eye-catching 61 key passes and a more modest 34 shots in his last two seasons with Betis.
Looking at 2020/21’s stats, Royal supplied chances at a similar rate (one every 96 minutes) to the man he is effectively replacing, Aurier (one every 89 minutes).
A total of 31 opportunities created would have seen him ranked joint-10th among FPL defenders in 2020/21.
He wasn’t afforded too many shooting opportunities – just 11 – but his trigger-happy nature was perhaps curbed a little by Pellegrini.
Indeed, his minutes-per-chance average of 123.9 under former coach Rubi in 2019/20 was closer to what Aurier and Sergio Reguilon (£5.2m) were producing last season.
THE PROSPECTS – AND WHERE HE WILL FIT IN AT SPURS
Where Royal will play is the easy bit: right-back in Nuno Espirito Santo’s 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 or, should the former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager revisit his former preferred formation, at wing-back in a 3-4-3.
Tanganga, whose future likely lies at centre-half anyway, is the obvious fall guy, although he may still be preferred in the matches where Spurs are on the back foot against top-class opposition, having excelled against Manchester City in Gameweek 1.
Royal would seem to have been brought in not just to bolster the numbers at right-back but with an eye on fixtures where the Lilywhites are facing a low block: the otherwise solid Tanganga’s limitations were evident in Gameweek 3 against Watford, with his crossing wayward and his passing mostly unadventurous.
With Cristian Romero (£4.9m) and Davinson Sanchez (£4.5m) set to miss out in Gameweek 4 as a result of their international involvement over the last week and Tanganga’s services likely needed at centre-back, Royal may be pressed into action quickly at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
It’s probably best to given the Brazilian a watching brief at first, as he seems like an unnecessary risk given the options already available to us. Reguilon remains the proven mid-price route into the Spurs defence for now, while Eric Dier (£4.6m) is a handy cut-price alternative while we weigh up who Romero will replace at centre-half and where Tanganga and Royal stand in the right-back pecking order.
In the medium term, the combination of heavy-duty defensive work in Nuno’s counter-attacking set-up and semi-regular chance creation could help Royal on the Bonus Points System (BPS). Reguilon, for example, has already accrued as many bonus points (four) this season as he did in the whole of 2020/21.
Royal’s aerial prowess, both in terms of clearances, blocks and interceptions (CBIs) and at the other end of the pitch (over 25% of his attempts for Betis were headers), is also something to watch out for.