Emerson Royal’s nightmare debut shows Tottenham still have big defensive problems
When Tottenham Hotspur signed Matt Doherty in August 2020 they looked like they had solved their right-back issues. However, it hasn’t quite worked out for the Irish full-back and he will now have to settle for a spot on the bench after the arrival of Emerson Royal.
The 22-year-old was making his debut for Spurs after being put straight into the side, having arrived in a £25million deal from Barcelona in August.
It was not the easiest of debuts for the new signing, however, as Crystal Palace dealt Spurs their first defeat of the season thanks to a Wilfried Zaha penalty and two late strikes from debutant Odsonne Edouard.
The goals all came after Japhet Tanganga was sent off in the 58th minute for a second yellow card, after a late tackle on Jordan Ayew quickly followed his booking five minutes earlier for a heated coming together with Zaha.
Up against one of the trickiest wingers in the league, Emerson initially performed well against Wilfried Zaha, with both players involved in an intriguing battle throughout the course of the first half.
The Brazilian defender was a presence in both boxes and would have had more chances to influence the game if his teammates weren’t so reluctant to play a risky pass.
Emerson stayed very wide and was given plenty of space by Zaha and Eagles left-back Tyrick Mitchell.
However, the likes of Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp prioritised keeping possession rather than switching it to the pacey fullback.
In his own half, the £26m did well, granted that he did get turned on a few occasions as he tried to get to grips with the intensity and physicality of the Premier League.
Alongside two fairly inexperienced centre backs, Tanganga and Joe Rodon, Emerson took responsibility for some long Palace balls and won some important headers.
And after Tanganga’s dismissal, the 22-year-old was forced to show maturity beyond his years as Nuno Espirito Santo demanded his defence formed a stronger, deeper back four.
In the closing stages, Emerson didn’t have the licence to roam forward, but he was more solid defensively and that put him under pressure against Zaha.
The Ivorian showed his best form, dazzling the full-back with skill and mazy runs.
The way that Spurs crumbled after Zaha’s penalty will provide some concern to Nuno, who had seen his side concede no goals in their opening three matches of the season.
Losing Dier to injury and Tanganga would have been a blow to their defensive balance.
And while Emerson was not directly at fault for any of the goals, it was notable that Edouard’s two goals came from his side.
Indeed, his display in the final quarter of an hour showed just why Barcelona were keen to offload him when Spurs came calling.
Emerson was Spurs’ second defensive acquisition over the summer after Cristian Romero was purchased from Atalanta.
It was clear just how much the north London club wanted him, having reportedly offered Tanguy Ndombele and/or Serge Aurier plus cash to secure his signature.
Ndombele has fallen out of favour since arriving in north London from Ligue One side Lyon, whereas Aurier was released by the Lilywhites on deadline day.
But on this evidence, the £25m spent may have been a gamble given his lack of experience with the Catalan giants.
Emerson will no doubt improve aplenty from his debut and he will be hoping that he doesn’t have to face a player of Zaha’s class every week.
But in a game where there were few positives to take away from the overall performance from Selhurst Park, Spurs fans will be concerned with Emerson’s first outing in the white shirt.
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