Emerson Royal exclusive Q&A: Tottenham defender on what rivalry means to him ahead of Arsenal clash

Emerson Royal speaks exclusively to Sky Sports' Ben Grounds about what derbies mean to him, idolising Dani Alves, and the project at Spurs; watch Arsenal vs Tottenham live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Super Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm

Emerson Royal was speaking exclusively to Sky Sports

When it comes to ranking the intensity and drama of Premier League match-ups, there are very few that compare favourably with the North London derby.

It is a contest which rarely disappoints.

No fixture in Premier League history can match the 39 meetings in which both these teams have scored, while in the past 12 seasons stretching back to 2010/11, there have been more fouls (590) and more yellow cards (104) when Arsenal and Tottenham collide than in any other fixture.

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For Emerson Royal, who in his time as a Real Betis player sampled the animosity of an Andalusian derby against Sevilla, a cauldron of noise awaits as Spurs prepare to make the four-mile trip to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.

Being part of a winning Tottenham team away at Arsenal for the first time in over a decade would instantly secure him cult-hero status.

Tottenham's Emerson Royal cannot wait for the derby
Image: The Tottenham defender cannot wait for the derby

What should commentators call you?

"I like how they continue to call me Emerson Royal, even after the first mention! I have on the back of my shirt E. Royal wherever I've been.

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"Of course, it doesn't matter too much to me if I'm called 'Emerson' or 'Royal' but I know it's a rare name over here. It's a long name I know, but I like it!"

How would you describe yourself as a player?

Emerson Royal

"I'm a player with prominent physical attributes that likes to get forward, but I'm also very technical and comfortable in one-v-one situations.

"I'm someone who relishes duels both in the air and on the ground. I feel I've improved a lot in my ability to mark opponents, which is essential given my position."

Tell me about your formative years as a footballer, growing up in Brazil...

Emerson Royal

"My time at Ponte Preta and Atletico Mineiro was very important in my development.

"I never actually played once in Ponte Preta's derby against Guarani which was a shame but I remember my debut for Atletico Mineiro was in fact in the Clássico Mineiro against Cruzeiro.

"Thankfully we won the game 1-0 and it was a unique feeling, in the same way that facing Arsenal as a Tottenham player will be for me on Sunday.

"You might finish your career having played a million games but these are the games that stick in your mind."

You've spoken previously about Dani Alves being your idol. What makes him such an inspiration to you?

Brazil are defending Copa America champions from 2019
Image: Dani Alves celebrates Copa America success in 2019

"I've only had the privilege of speaking with him a couple of times on the phone. I had the opportunity of meeting him in the build-up to the Copa America but then he wasn't selected in the final squad.

"He's a contemporary idol for me as he's someone who ever since I was little has been winning titles wherever he's been.

"He's considered as one of the greatest right-backs of all time and the number of titles he's won during his career speak for themselves (with 43 trophies, Alves is the second-most decorated defender of all time in European competitions).

"I respect what he's achieved but I also have a lot of gratitude for the affection he has for me. When he spoke to me, he told me I had a lot of potential and he had many nice words to say about me as a person.

"When you're recognised in this way by someone who is a legend in the game, it makes you want to succeed even more."

It has been a turbulent summer for you, is that a fair assessment?

AP: Emerson Royal
Image: Emerson played a handful of times for Barcelona

"Yes - that's exactly how I'd describe it having felt I was going to be at Barcelona this season. It was a very atypical moment for a footballer and in my life, essentially joining two clubs in one summer.

"It's certainly meant I've experienced something different that I had to quickly get used to. I had to make a difficult decision in a very short period of time, but from the moment I arrived here at Spurs I felt I'd made the right choice.

"I wouldn't say adapting to a new country and a new league has been complicated - it's just obviously very different to the convention of joining one club from another.

"There's still the language barrier that I am grappling with but for sure it will get easier as time passes."

Emerson Royal

Which players are helping you to bed in at Spurs?

"I get on well with Lucas [Moura] as a fellow Brazilian and the Spanish speakers such as Giovani [Lo Celso] who have been at the club for a while and who know what it's like being at Spurs and living in London.

"They've really helped me in every aspect to feel at home straightaway. Clearly, the manager speaks Portuguese so that has helped with understanding the message he wants to get across and his expectations of my role within the team.

"It's a goal of mine to pick up English as quickly as possible but I already understand what the manager is trying to implement. It's not something which is going to happen overnight but slowly I'll pick up the key English words in training.

"It's not just the Spanish and Portuguese speakers at the club. Everyone has really helped me settle in."

Do you feel learning the language is the biggest obstacle for you?

"For me, obstacles are there to be overcome. It's a phrase I like to take forward with me wherever I've been in life.

"Right now, clearly I need to learn the language and adapt to a new climate but to me this is a very small thing that I can overcome."

Has anyone stopped you on the street yet?

Emerson Royal

"I don't like to go out much so the truth is that it's not happened many times. I prefer to stay at home, go to restaurants by car so it's quite rare for me to get stopped by people on the street.

"Clearly, this is also all part of me adapting to being in a new country. But bit by bit, I'll go out more and people will recognise me. I'm getting more and more advice over where to go out in London to help me adapt to my new home."

What does the rivalry with Arsenal mean to you?

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Tottenham trained together on Friday as they prepare to face rivals Arsenal in the north London derby on Sunday.

"These are the best games. These are the types of games you really want to play in. I was fortunate enough to play in several Andalusian derbies between Real Betis and Sevilla and you look forward to them all week.

"You know how much they mean to the supporters and how passionate they are to win them. Rivalry is an integral part of sport and is what I love most about football. It's the best part of the job.

"The big games and the clasicos as we call them in Brazil - they make you feel alive just thinking about them. They're the first games you look to in the calendar and it's no different with Arsenal.

TH XI
Image: How Spurs lined up in their loss to Chelsea

"These are the games that you remember at the end of your career. In Seville, the entire city came to a standstill whenever Betis played Sevilla.

"Here, clearly there's a different feeling as it's a much bigger city but the intensity is still there. Facing Arsenal so early on in my Spurs career is special and I know we'll do everything we can to emerge victorious."

Do you have any memories of the North London derby from growing up in Brazil?

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Tottenham head coach Nuno Espirito Santo says his side's derby clash with Arsenal on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, is more than 'just another game'.

"When I was little, I didn't have access to watching the Premier League on the television so I don't have recollections of previous battles.

"It's not like today in Brazil where there's coverage everywhere of the Premier League and La Liga. I'd watch the very top teams in Spain but that was about it.

"It wasn't as accessible as it is today but now I'm playing in them!"

You spoke in a previous interview with MARCA about Tottenham having a 'project' which enticed you to join. What do you understand this as being?

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Highlights from the Carabao Cup third round match between Wolves and Tottenham.

"I know I've moved to a massive club in the biggest league in world football. This is an excellent team full of top professionals and it's a team that is capable of competing to finish high up in the table.

"This is what the project means to me. I have a desire to develop at this club and they have made me feel very wanted. I'm very grateful to them for bringing me here.

"I can guarantee supporters that I'll give my all to help drive the club back to where I feel it belongs in the top positions as well as in cup competitions. That's the bare minimum they can expect from me."

How to follow Arsenal vs Tottenham

Arsenal vs Spurs

Arsenal vs Totteham is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle

Premier League preview: North London derby assessed | Chelsea vs Man City to reveal title favourite? | Liverpool's encouraging start

Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith, as well as football writers Ben Grounds and Adam Bate, to look ahead to the Premier League weekend's standout fixtures…

PART 1 | Will a north London derby win be a launchpad for Arsenal or Tottenham? Former Gunner Alan Smith gives his verdict on the two teams and where the match will be won or lost on Sunday.

PART 2 | We preview Man City's trip to Chelsea on Saturday, where two title favourites collide, and reflect on the start made by another Premier League challenger in Liverpool, ahead of their game with Brentford.

PART 3 | After an encouraging draw at Man City, will Southampton get off the mark against a goal-shy Wolves this weekend? And we look at what Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira has to do to land a breakthrough win over Brighton on MNF.

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