Following Saturday’s 1-0 win over Huddersfield, Wilfried Zaha decided to open up about the lack of protection he receives from Premier League referees; a decision which has led to some truly astounding reactions from across the sporting media landscape.
Having initially been prompted to discuss the rough treatment he received from week to week by the interviewer, Zaha admitted that the threat of being scythed down is now in his mind each and every time he has the ball at his feet. After eight years of relentless kickings, it’s no wonder Wilfried is fed up but the reaction of many simply highlights why he’s fighting a losing battle by trying to open their eyes to the victimisation he faces.
Numerous statistics have given weight to the view that Zaha is absolutely pivotal to Palace’s chances of success from game to game, with his wonder-strike against the Terriers last Saturday showing exactly why the vast majority of our attacking play goes through him but with that skill now well known, opposition players aren’t even bothering to disguise their attempts to hurt the 25-year-old.
Yesterday, Adrian Durham suggested that Zaha should go and play abroad “if he doesn’t like the Premier League”. No surprise there, the man-child will say anything he can to infuriate listeners and keep himself in a job but his co-host Micky Gray then had the audacity to suggest that managers would now begin to tell their players to physically target the 25-year-old, as if they haven’t been doing exactly that for the last decade already.
The most worrying aspect of the backlash to Zaha’s comments is the suggestion that opposition defenders will now be encouraged to go out and kick a player of supreme ability, just to teach him a lesson. I could be wrong but I cannot remember a single occasion when a tackle made on Wilfried has ever resulted in a straight red card. When you consider the ferocity with which defenders launch into tackles on him week after week, that tells its own story. The constant stick he takes from the press impacts upon the impression officials have, leading to dangerous fouls going unpunished time and again.
Pundits should not be legitimising the targeting of a professional footballer who could quite easily have had his Achilles snapped by Etienne Capoue in his second to last appearance; it’s plainly irresponsible.