Things have sort of grinded to a halt recently for Wilfried Zaha which is a shame because at the start of the summer it looked like this could have been a defining season in the young wingers’ career. Rewind eleven months and Zaha was making his England debut in Sweden, with a January transfer to Manchester United approaching. He remained with Crystal Palace for the rest of the season and helped take the club who had done so much for his career into the Premier League.
He arrived at United with a new manager to impress but that didn’t faze him, he knuckled down and worked his way into Manchester United’s starting XI for the season opener against Wigan at Wembley. That Community Shield game remains his only competitive appearance to date for his new side and paper reports recently suggest the player has been told he can go out on loan in January. Newcastle, Stoke, Fulham and Southampton have all reportedly registered an interest with the player said to prefer the former as an option. The fact that Moyes hasn’t even given Zaha a chance when he has the likes of Valencia and Young under-performing is a discussion for another day, but clearly the performances of Adnan Januzaj have also had an impact on Zaha’s first team football opportunities.
Zaha is currently in the England U21s and when Tom Cleverly had to leave the senior squad through injury it was Raheem Sterling who was chosen to replace him, not the Manchester United man. This goes to show why getting some first team football is absolutely imperative for Zaha. Sterling has made 6 appearances this season (albeit only one as a starter) but he has wingers who are playing very well ahead of him whilst some of Zaha’s club rivals are stuttering. The man currently in Zaha’s position is Tottenham winger Andros Townsend, a player who has started six league matches already this season. Spurs have signed big name wingers such as Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela but it is Townsend who has started the season brightly and kept the big money signings on the bench. He is yet to score or register an assist but has already attempted 48 dribbles, showing his directness and his goal against Montenegro will have done him no harm.
The real problem that Zaha has though is that he is now not even first choice for the U21s and he is behind another winger who is benefiting from regular football. Norwich City’s Nathan Redmond has had a tremendous start to his career with the Canaries following his summer transfer from Birmingham. The winger plays without fear, is direct and causes huge problems for defences. Redmond is the only player of the four to have scored this season and he too is being talked about as one who could soon make his England bow. Sterling has played 207 minutes in the Premier League this season, Redmond 395 and Townsend 487, and that’s just in the league. The fact that Zaha hasn’t played in a single competitive game since the Community Shield is damaging not just to his England chances but also to his development as a player.
This is the fault of David Moyes because if he had decided to send the player out on loan in the summer he would have had no end of possible suitors. The fact that he decided to keep Zaha with the first team squad and never play him just isn’t fair. Of course there is much to be gained from training with world class players but there is no real substitute for minutes on the pitch and it is incredible that he hasn’t even been used in a Champions League match or even against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup.
If Zaha does move to Newcastle it could prove to be a perfect match because Zaha could add some real pace and penetration to the Magpies line-up. Currently Newcastle play a 4-2-3-1 with Cheick Tiote and Moussa Sissoko just behind a front four of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy and Papiss Cissé. The weak link in that six is currently Cissé, the Senegalese international hasn’t scored in his last 13 Premier League games and his only strike this season came in the Capital One Cup against Leeds. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has repeatedly backed his player and although his potential replacements are pretty poor alternatives, with Zaha, the situation changes. He could move Remy up front and then play the youngster out on the left where he can cut inside, in a similar vein to Ben Arfa on the other flank.
Obviously Zaha is a very talented player and he does have a very bright future in the game but at the moment he is in danger of falling behind some of his rivals. Both Redmond and Sterling are younger than Zaha but the fact they are seeing more game time is something he needs to amend. A loan is the perfect situation if Moyes is reluctant to experiment with the former Palace prodigy. Newcastle are probably the best option because at the moment it is hard to see how he’d force his way into a Southampton side on a fantastic run of form. He could do well under Mark Hughes at Stoke but at Newcastle he could benefit from playing some high tempo football. Working with a player like Ben Arfa might help him as well and I’m sure Alan Pardew would be delighted to get him on board.