Wilfried Zaha has been the subject of fresh transfer speculation over the last month or so but with Unai Emery’s Arsenal now credited with a live interest in the 26-year-old, Liverpool legend John Barnes has weighed into the debate, saying that a move to The Emirates would be a mistake.
The Ivory Coast international recently bagged one of Palace’s goals in their 3-2 win over the Gunners in north London but aside from that headline grabbing display, Barnes feels as though Zaha’s game is uniquely suited to the role he’s been afforded in SE25, giving him reason to believe that he should stay put for both his and Palace’s benefit.
The logic behind such a statement may well ring true, given the freedom of expression Zaha is granted whilst wearing red and blue. Both he and his teammates are well aware that the majority of our attacking play flows through him and whilst that may sometimes get a little tiring, you can be sure that he wouldn’t be given such special treatment when playing for a top six regular. Personally, having watched Zaha improve and mature since returning from Manchester United, I feel he is now capable of slotting into a side like Arsenal’s and making a success of it but there is no denying that he’d be forced to make rather drastic adjustments to the game he currently plays from week to week.
With that sense of attacking reliance comes a degree of freedom in the final third which regularly results in losses of possession or squandered chances. Were Wilf expected to pass more often than isolate his covering defender and look to drive beyond him, Arsenal (or whoever go on to retain his services) would likely see a player who struggles, at least initially, to forge an identity in a new footballing environment. Could he adapt? Absolutely. Would the club who stump up the fee necessary to take him away be getting the player they expected when they signed on the dotted line? It’s highly unlikely.
Neutrals and rivals can talk all they want about Zaha “lacking ambition” if he does indeed decide to stay in south London for the rest of his days but as John Barnes has so astutely observed, it may simply be the best place for him to grow and excel further as a professional. What’s the harm in an extremely talented academy product spending the vast majority of his playing days with his boyhood club and making himself a legend in the process? You’re a long time retired and should Zaha stick it out in SE25, you can bet he’ll be held up as one of if not the greatest player to have ever worn our shirt for the rest of his days.
Let’s hope he takes John Barnes’ advice.