If you’ve paid any sort of attention to the ups and downs of Crystal Palace over the last few years, you’ll know that Wilfried Zaha’s “end product” has been under incessant scrutiny from pundits across the game but on Saturday, the 25-year-old put that debate to bed in emphatic fashion.
32 – Wilfried Zaha has been directly involved in 32 Premier League goals for Crystal Palace (18 goals, 14 assists); no player has had a hand in more for the Eagles (Jason Puncheon also on 32). Pivotal.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 7, 2018
With the score tied at 1-1 and Palace in desperate need of some inspiration, the academy graduate produced a moment of individual skill which will have forced even his harshest of critics to sit up and take notice. Perched on the edge of the Cherries’ penalty area, Wilf jinked his way across the box, indulging in a delicate pirouette along the way before hitting a powerful, high drive into the back of Begovic’s net.
It was a goal which incorporated Zaha’s flair for the unexpected and a killer instinct that so many of his detractors remain desperate to ignore. By this point it feels as though some will never give the winger the credit he deserves but in reality, the statistic quoted at the top of the page gives you all the proof you need about his importance to the Eagles in an attacking capacity.
When you consider the number of assists he hasn’t been given (McArthur’s Selhurst winner against Watford from earlier this season sticks out as a high profile example) you’ll struggle to find a single Palace fan who agrees with the different “experts” who still look to poke holes in his weekly output.
Indeed, the wonderfully weighted cross-field pass he played to Patrick van Aanholt on Saturday could and almost certainly should have ended in a goal but sadly, the wide man’s good work was wasted, robbing him of the opportunity to pad the statistics that the likes of Alan Shearer have been so keen to beat him over the head with in years gone by.
Quite why these ex-pros, who no doubt understand the game on a technical level, choose to fall back on numbers rather than using their own eyes is anyone’s guess but to those of us who watch Wilf and Palace on a game by game basis, there is no doubt that he above anyone else, is the lightning rod for the club.
At least he now has an indisputable title to fall back on the next time someone looks to pull him up for being a “show pony.”