It’s taken just one game in charge of Crystal Palace for Frank de Boer to fume at the rough treatment Wilfried Zaha gets from the opposition, with the Dutchman singling out Marko Grujic for criticism.
Whilst Zaha’s fleet-footed skills may leave opposition defenders hugely frustrated from week to week, there is simply no justification for the dangerous tackles that are routinely committed on him. Admittedly, fouls that take place in competitive fixtures are often accepted by many Palace fans but yesterday, given the setting, Wilf, de Boer and our supporters had every right to be angry with Grujic.
As I’m sure plenty of you have already realised, the Serbian has form for such things, with a challenge he made on James Tomkins at Anfield last season keeping the former West Ham man out for weeks. On that occasion, he made absolutely no attempt to win the ball and again yesterday, he left his foot in on Zaha with the ball already two to three feet away from him.
Luckily for Palace, Wilf was able to shake off the knock and continue playing but even so, the incident served as a reminder of the head-shakingly desperate tactics every team’s defenders are likely to employ in a bid to stop him this season. We’ve been saying it for years but he really does need greater protection from referees if he is to avoid sustaining a serious injury in the not too distant future.
It’s curious to think that Wilf is still seen by many as a “diver” when fouls of this nature have been made on him for years. We all know that opposition fans hate seeing their defenders embarrassed by him but the diving tag is one which he quite simply doesn’t deserve. Hopefully this season, officials will work with him rather than against him but if past experience is anything to go by, I wouldn’t hold your breath.