After some back and forth between the two clubs, Chelsea look like they have finally struck up an agreement with Roma to bring Emerson Palmieri to Stamford Bridge this week.
Antonio Conte has made no secret of the fact that he wants to add reinforcements on the left side of his defence as the Blues have become overly reliant on Marcos Alonso over the last 18 months.
While the Spaniard has been in great form this season – bagging yet another goal at the weekend as Conte’s men marched past Newcastle and into the fifth round of the FA Cup – it is obvious that he needs some back up.
With Kenedy headed out to the Magpies on loan and Baba Rahman’s loan move to Schalke for the next year and a half confirmed yesterday, it seems that a move for Emerson is nearing its completion – even if Edin Dzeko may not be arriving with him.
Although Chelsea fans are excited at the prospect of a new signing, many find themselves asking: just who is the Brazilian-born left-back?
Palmieri, commonly known as Emerson, began his career in the Santos youth academy before making his senior debut at the Brazilian club in the Campeonato Paulista in 2011 alongside Neymar.
That same year Emerson was part of the Brazil U17 side that won the South American U17 Football Championship, playing eight games and contributing a goal from his left-back position.
He also played for the Selecao in the U17 World Cup, helping them finish fourth. Emerson gradually earned himself playing time in the Santos first team, making a total of 18 appearances up until the summer of 2014.
Palermo brought him to Italy and he made his Serie A debut in a 3-3 draw with Napoli at the San Paolo, going on to play nine times in the league that year.
His performances caught the attention of Roma and he officially joined the club for €2m on the last day of the August 2015 window.
Despite being Brazilian born, Emerson switched his allegiance to the Italian national team, having Italian ancestry on his mother’s side.
Emerson played regularly last season for Roma but however, he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and underwent surgery. That meant that the left-back has played just one Serie A match and one Coppa Italia game this season.
Given that Marcos Alonso has been essentially the one and only left wing-back at Chelsea since last season, and will be Emerson’s main competitor, comparisons between the two will be plentiful.
We can start off by acknowledging that Emerson is just as versatile as Alonso, if not more, lining up usually as a left back, but also capable further up the wing, on the other flank, or even in a more central midfield position. He is left footed.
A quick Google search will bring up many articles claiming Emerson to be one of the best left backs in Serie A — and thus the world — but the statistical evidence (limited as that may be) actually does support such claims. Last season, he was basically on par with £60 million-rated Alex Sandro, facing the same level of competition week in and week out.
As a defender, Emerson’s main task will be to protect Chelsea’s left flank. In this aspect he’s done very well against Serie A opposition, posting higher success rate percentages than Sandro in tackles (84%) and aerial duels (68.42%). He also put completed a good number of clearances (2.2) and blocks (2.3) per 90 minutes, showing good anticipation in defence for a player his age, while rarely conceding fouls (0.6 per 90) or getting booked (1 yellow card in the entire season).
He had the fewest direct contributions by a good margin when compared with Sandro, Alosno, Kolasinac, and Filipe Luis, with just 1 assist and 0 goals to his name in almost 2000 minutes of league play, but his other metrics compare very well. He was best of the five in dribbling with ball, winning 72.41% of his 2.9 attempted take-ons and drawing at least 2 fouls per every 90 minutes on the pitch — almost three times as much in the latter two categories as Marcos Alonso.
Throughout the 2016-17 term, Emerson registered more accurate (short) passing numbers than his competition — 88% pass success averaging 46.5 passes per 90 minutes. His crossing and long-ball numbers could use improvement, though he did set up more shots than all but Alex Sandro (1.4 “key” passes).
One of Emerson’s major characteristics is how he seems to love running at markers and beating them with a good set of dribbling skills, speed and balance. Step-overs are commonplace in his game, as well as elásticos to leave opposing defenders eating his dust and grasping for fouls. It is no surprise that he draws so many of them, putting his average sized frame (1.76m or 5ft 9in) to good use.
Since his debut in 2011, Emerson has made only 89 senior appearances. Granted, he was a teenager for half of that span, but outside of last season, the one that ended in the ACL injury, he has not put together a full campaign at one of his stops. There is certain bit of risk that he is nothing more than a one-season wonder.
Chelsea, surely, are playing a high risk, high reward game by signing Emerson.[tps_header][/tps_header]