On Tuesday, Tottenham Hotspur announced the signing of right-wing-back Djed Spence; despite the signing, fans should not count out Emerson Royal.
In one of the more protracted Tottenham signings of the summer, the club officially announced that Djed Spence had joined the club. Spence gives Antonio Conte six wing-backs for just two spots in the starting XI. With that many players for only two positions, we should expect some player exists; however, Royal is not likely to be one of them, and here is why.
Royal is a plus defender for Tottenham
Over the last several seasons, Spurs fans have grown accustomed to less than stellar play from our right fullback. That changed when Royal was signed from Barcelona in the summer of 2021. An immediate upgrade over Serge Aurier, who was eventually let go, and Matt Doherty, Royal was thrust into the Nuno Espirito Santo’s starting line-up.
During that time, Emerson proved himself to be an above-average defender who was as willing to make a tackle as he was to fight for a header as he was to push forward up the pitch.
After several seasons of calamity at right back, where fans and coaches alike were just waiting for the next shoe to drop, Emerson rid Spurs of that with solid positional defence.
Of course, as Conte came in and the formation shifted, some of Emerson’s deficiencies in attack became obvious, and he did lose his place to Doherty for a time. After Doherty was injured, Royal was back in the starting XI and performed strongly down the stretch, particularly on the defensive end.
As a coach who plays with a defence-first philosophy, Royal still has plenty to offer, particularly when Spurs are playing strong teams with potent attacks. Having a plus defender in Royal gives Conte options, which he likes.
Emerson is capable and improving going forward
While he will not be confused with Aaron Lenon on the wing anytime soon and leaves a bit to be desired, Royal is capable going forward. Possessing a wonderful first touch and typically willing to make smart plays with the ball, Royal has potential in the attack.
As a player who is willing to run up and down the flank all day, who does have a nice touch, Emerson has the foundation to grow into an effective wing-back. Further, under Conte, we should expect to see the Brazilian continue to improve.
While his crossing and passing in the final third, in general, need to improve, we should expect Royal to get chances to improve just that. Whereas Spence is a high-risk, high-reward option with his ability to take on defenders, Royal will provide some consistency, which the team will need.
The competition is just beginning
Spence is not simply walking in and starting in week one against Southampton; rather, like everyone else on the team, Spence will need to earn his minutes. With Royal, Spence, Doherty, and even Lucas Moura battling for minutes at the right-wing-back position, we should expect to see lots of players get a chance and Conte to stick with the player(s) who take that chance.
With a defence-first approach to the midfield, getting effective play from wide areas is critical to Conte’s system. Spence will get his chance, but so too is Royal, and no one should count the Brazilian out.