Wilfried Zaha has emerged as a shock target for Arsenal over recent days, with the exciting attacker open to a move away from Crystal Palace. Unai Emery is understood to be a huge fan, but the Mail report that his price tag could be as high as £100 million. That underlined his value to the selling club.
The main issue for Crystal Palace would be the reaction of the supporters. The club have already sold Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United for an eye-watering fee. Although the right-back was an important player for the club, he was nowhere near the level of Zaha. A quick look at the way they struggled without their star man last season emphasises that. Last December’s win over Watford was their first victory without Zaha in two years. His presence is vital to the club’s success.
Last season represented the first time that Zaha reached the 10-goal mark in the Premier League. He finished the campaign with ten goals and five assists with a goal involvement every 202.7 minutes. It was a decent return for a player in the bottom half of the division, but Palace supporters will emphasise his importance isn’t properly shown by those stats. The 26-year-old’s total contribution can’t be shown by goal and assist stats. He often occupies two or more opposition defenders, which opens up a lot of space for others.
Meanwhile, there aren’t too many better dribblers than the Ivory Coast international. He averaged 3.4 dribbles per Premier League match. During the 2018/19 season, Palace won 11 penalties in the league, with many of them being won by the trickery of Zaha. One would think the winger will win even more after the implementation of VAR. He is excellent at drawing a foul from an opposition player and this is another reason why he is horrible to play against.
Zaha has many qualities, but his defensive work rate isn’t one of those. At Palace, he is afforded a role that doesn’t require him to do too much off the ball. Roy Hodgson knows that his value comes in the final third. Due to the ambitions of the club and his own quality, he can be given this role at Selhurst Park. However, it would be difficult to see the same things being offered by Unai Emery, a manager who rates defensive work rate highly in attacking players. This is one of the reasons why Mesut Ozil has struggled for regular game time.
There is no arguing against Zaha’s qualities as a footballer. He has been one of the best players outside of the top six for the last number of years. The majority would agree that he deserves another crack at the top six after a disastrous spell at Manchester United. However, he is likely to become a victim of his own success.
Crystal Palace are rightfully valuing him at a high price, as it correlates to his overall importance to the team. That said, it comes in much higher at his potential value to Arsenal. For the Gunners, a 26-year-old costing £100 million should immediately be the best player in the squad.
This wouldn’t be the case with Zaha. In fact, there would be no guarantee that he would even break into the first team. For that reason, Arsenal should avoid this signing and source cheaper alternatives abroad.