Wilfried Zaha has aimed a very pointed dig at referee Mike Dean having been wrongly booked for diving in Crystal Palace’s 1-0 defeat away to Leicester City.
Teasing his way in between two Foxes defenders in the 87th minute of Saturday’s clash, Wilf went down after feeling contact with the outstretched leg of Christian Fuchs, only to see Dean theatrically deny his protestations of foul play before brandishing a yellow card with the enthusiasm of an orchestra conductor in the midst of a grand finale.
We’ve all got used to Zaha’s general trickery getting him into hot water over the years, with referees seemingly uncomfortable at the frequency with which he draws fouls out of defenders, but for the man himself, it must be hugely frustrating to know that your natural game is being stifled by officials who are too concerned by the prospect of making a mistake to do what their eyes tell them to.
Were we to look back at Chelsea’s meeting with us at Stamford Bridge in the final weeks of the 2014/15 season, we would see Eden Hazard described as “clever” by large sections of the press for conning the referee into pointing at the spot, but in Zaha’s case, it is his apparent “reputation as a diver” that has worked against him.
As a wide man with a huge amount of talent, Zaha’s instincts lean towards a desire to trick and tease a full-back; it is the unique element of his game which has enabled him to excel above many of his competitors over the years, but now, he is more likely than ever to approach defenders with a sense of trepidation rather than relish.
It’s easy for pundits to pick through the bones of the challenge in question and suggest that, had he not gone down theatrically, he would have been given the penalty, but we’ve all seen him fall naturally in the past and watch the referee shake his head with a sense of scepticism at the severity of the contact, in truth, Wilf is in a lose-lose situation.
The penalty incident in question is attached below, have another look and ask yourself what you would do from now on if you were in Zaha’s shoes. Unfortunately, the answer is far from simple.