So just how good is Wilfried Zaha. Julius from one Gunner Gooner blog might be an Arsenal fan, but he has also seen a lot of Palace in the last few years. Here is his assessment of Zaha and his take on whether Arsene Wenger should have tried a little harder to sign him.
I like to call Crystal Palace my South London club. My first ever football match was to watch The Eagles at Selhurst Park, and ever since I have kept up the connection. I always keep up with Palace’s results and, if possible, watch them down in SE25.
This deep lying love for the club means that I have been lucky enough to watch Wilfried Zaha turn into the player he is today. Frankly, how he’s gone unsnatched for this long is nothing short of remarkable. Although it seems he shall don the colours of our fierce rivals Manchester United from next season, he is still a wonderfully gifted footballer that should be appreciated by lovers of football in general.
What Sort of Player Is He?
Since Darren Ambrose left for Birmingham in the summer, Zaha has become Palace’s new talisman. And a better one at that. Put simply, he is their only star player. Crystal Palace play with a basic 4-2-3-1 formation, and strong defensive midfielders in Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi give the three attacking midfielders a licence to roam. Yannick Bolasie, Oven Garvan and Andre Moritz all rotate in the AM positions, but Zaha is the only consistent starter.
It speaks volumes about the raw quality he has. He can do anything. He has astonishing pace, a low centre of gravity for someone as moderately tall as 5ft 11 and a brilliant shot. At times, Palace just give him the ball and he’ll do something special. Against Peterborough in November, when desperately needing a winner to remain top, they gave the ball to Zaha. He ran half the length of the field and cut it back for Dikgacoi to score in the final few minutes. He’s that kind of player for Crystal Palace: a talisman but also a leader by example.
If he had moved to Arsenal, he could have slotted in quite nicely. He would most likely have operated down the left flank. As a right footer, he has an unbelievable talent for bamboozling full backs before cutting inside then passing or shooting. Think of him in dribbling form as the Gervinho of the Championship. But before that puts you off, his end product is one of the strongest points of his game, and some of the goals he scores and assists are extremely impressive.
What Is His True Value?
Only now is he starting to blossom. For a while now has he been a consistently good performer for The Eagles, but this season he has suddenly stepped up. He buzzes around more than he used to, and has worked on his strength, which invariably comes with age. Now that his potential is being realised, it allows Palace to drive a hard bargain. And my God to they cling onto their talent. Neil Danns and Nathaniel Clyne, two of Palace’s best players in the 10/11 and 11/12 seasons respectively, were in the final year of their contracts. Even when it became apparent that neither wanted to remain, instead of cashing in (it was reported that there were offers on the table for Clyne as high as £7m), they stuck to their guns and held them to their contracts. Both left on free transfers the following summers. Bear in mind that this is a cash strapped club we’re talking about that, only a season ago, managed to claw their way out of administration. Manchester United have reportedly made a down payment of £10m, with the fee rising to as high as £15m depending on his success at the Red Devils. This seems fairly steep for a 20 year old that has never played at a level higher than the second tier but these days quality costs.
Would He Have Been A Good Signing For Arsenal?
In a nutshell, probably. The jump from taking on Peterborough’s Craig Alcock to Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic is obviously a big one, and many of the Championship’s best players have often struggled to make the step up (David Nugent being a prime example). I would like to see him as another future first teamer as he is unlikely to be the kind of player that will have an instant impact. We wouldn’t have needed him at all given how stocked our wings are. This means that buying him at an inflated price in January would have been a bit silly unless every forward at Arsenal suddenly develops osteoporosis. He still needs time to develop, and the Crystal Palace setup that churned out Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne is not a bad place for Zaha to continue his footballing education.
In conclusion, Zaha has remarkable ability. Without him, Palace would be midtable or worse, and his ability to save the day for The Eagles slightly reminds this Arsenal supporter of he who shall not be named. If he is to wear the picnic shirt of our northern rivals from next season, it will be a shame but also a testament to the raw talent this winger possesses . Eagles fans often call him the Ronaldo of the Championship. Whether he could fall under the same bracket as Cristiano in the Premier League is the big question. He certainly has that little glint in his eye.