His signing near the end of the summer 2021 transfer window was supposed to solve Spurs’ troubles at right fullback. Initially a hit under then-coach Nuno Espirito Santo, the Brazilian had difficulty adapting to the wing-back role under Conte. However, performances over the last month should give fans and the club reason to be optimistic about Royal’s future. We have to ask, has Emerson turned the corner for Tottenham given those performances?
Maybe the best learning Emerson received this season was his time out of the line-up in February and March, as Matt Doherty took control of the right wing-back role. Whereas Royal often looked lost in the part, Doherty was clearly comfortable and seemingly fit the bill with little effort. During that time, the young wide-man had an opportunity to see that the position could be easy if you were less predictable with the ball and more consistent with your positioning.
Back in the team before Doherty’s injury – as Matty filled in at left wing-back – Emerson has looked a different player since returning to the line-up. The last two matches in particular – against Liverpool and Arsenal – have highlighted the growth in Royal as a wing-back.
Confidence is back for Royal, Tottenham
Despite being voted Spurs player of the game against Liverpool, Royal arguably played even better against Arsenal. Starting from a more natural deeper position as Spurs began with 5 in the back on both occasions, it was Royal’s movement going forward that is making a difference now.
Even when he was not impacting the game offensively, Royal was a solid defender; now, if we add in some more dynamic play with the ball, suddenly, his future may be bright with Spurs.
Against Liverpool, it was Royal who collected the quick Hugo Lloris restart and then played a diagonal ball releasing Harry Kane, which led to Spurs’ goal. Of course, Royal spent much of the Liverpool game battling Saido Mane and Andy Robertson, but that play demonstrated his growing repertoire on the wing.
Against Arsenal, Royal was outstanding. He also showed the ability to put a decent cross into the box and hit a couple of exceptional passes up the line. Adding an excellent header on frame that Aaron Ramsdale was forced to save t was an excellent attacking show from Royal.
Ultimately, his long-term future with Spurs will be predicated on how well he does going forward. As a right-back, he is solid; as a wing-back, he is very much a work in progress. However, it is evident that Royal is quite coachable, and as we see with his celebrations, he is Spurs through and through.
Whereas right wing-back seemed a dead-on position of need in January, with the play of Doherty and Royal, Spurs may be able to focus more elsewhere. Two more positive performances to end the campaign is exactly what he and the team need, which would indeed show that the corner has been turned for the Brazilian at Tottenham.