Q&A with Crystal Palace fan on Wilfried Zaha
By Jesse Boyce
Questions compiled by the Stretford End Arising community.
Could he become the best player Crystal Palace has ever produced?
It’s always hard to compare players from different eras because the game is not the same. Similar questions have been asked on our own forums with the likely front runners to contest Zaha being Ian Wright, John Salako, Vince Hilaire and others like Victor Moses or even Wayne Routledge, who I wouldn’t put in the same class but has come on a lot recently. But you’d have to say given he has excelled so much so young, his potential is massive. He has a wonderful future in football, no doubt.
Does he have the potential to become world class?
Undoubtedly he does. The platform he has been given by Palace (he’ll be 20 with 150 games under his belt by the summer), the chance to improve and shine under Sir Alex at United and his early recognition within the full England squad adds up to a fantastic launch pad for a modern day football career. Barring injury, I’ve no doubt he’ll be in the next World Cup squad and hold his own, which is the definition of world class if ever you needed one.
What has been his stand out performance for Palace?
A couple stand out. Obviously the Carling Cup win at Old Trafford now feels like an audition which Zaha passed with flying colours. Fabio da Silva got a bit of a shock that night, it’s fair to say. Zaha provided the assist for Ambrose’s strike from outside the stadium, and then won the free kick which lead to Murray’s winner by forcing Ji Sung Park to obstruct him on the left flank. He was fearless that night and the press have blown his trumpet ever since.
Is he better on the left or right?
That’s a good question. He definitely prefers the right, he has that extra cheeky trick and seems to exude confidence when playing on that side. From memory, his more audacious stunts have occurred from there. Attacking on the left wing I’d say he has a bit more of a traditional style, perhaps helped by our left back (Parr) linking up and overlapping well. I’m just glad you don’t expect him to play up front! Even Sky seem to think he’s a striker. He’s really not.
What type of personality does he have?
He’s generally known as a placid character, he’s definitely not a firebrand, put it that way. He gets kicked around enough by Championship meatheads but doesn’t get really get riled by it, despite a lack of adequate protection from refs. That’s why we signed Damien Delaney On the way back from Leeds earlier this season, the Palace team coach parked up behind me at the services and I literally bumped in to Zaha. He agreed to a picture despite the rain, and politely declined an offer of a lift home in the car! So all level headed politeness and manners, but no shrinking violet when he’s on the ball. He’ll take on whatever’s in front of him, and then whatever behind what’s in front of him.
What are his current strengths and weaknesses?
Zaha’s strengths are well known, he has bags of tricks and great concentration on the ball, lightning reactions and the ability to get out of the tightest of spots. But you could say he gets himself in to too many of those tight spots by his own making. His harshest critics would say he needs to look up more and know where his team mates are. He drags so many opposition players towards himself, creating so much space on the opposite side of the pitch, he’d do well to switch the play once in a while. He’s just a master of dribbling, the best we’ve ever had. He just needs to know when enough is enough and play a simple square ball now and again. Ironically it would fool the opposition more than his tricks would, making him less predictable. His less harsh critics would say that will all come with time and experience.
In what areas does he need to improve?
As alluded to above, his decision making. It’s got better, he was very frustrating to watch last season and was labelled as a luxury player, but his final ball has improved. Shooting too. He’s slightly wayward with shooting on target, he could test the keeper more and get on the scoresheet more often. What’s most improved about Wilf in his short career is his ball retention, he was unrecognisable in August having really bulked up over pre-season. He’s harder to tackle and that’s helped his confidence no end.
Are you pleased or disappointed to see Zaha leave?
Obviously gutted. He gets you out of your seat and what he can do beggars belief, at least once or twice a game. I think there would have been an outrage amongst our fans if the loan back didn’t happen. That was a masterstroke in peacekeeping by our board. So there’s a sense of a ‘stay of execution’ if you like, he’s going, but he’s not quite gone, and he can leave us as an absolute folk hero if he helps us get promoted in the meantime.
Is there a possibility he could become a big money flop?
Of course there is, with any young player commanding a sizeable fee. But he has all the attributes to make you think the chances of that happening are very slim. He’s not a liability, there will be no attitude problems at all. Ferguson will make him a star. He’s been spoilt in the sense that he’s the biggest fish in our pond, and allowed to get away with mistakes, to the point where his teammates won’t give him any grief for being greedy. I can’t see that happening at United, one dirty look from Rooney will scare him into passing. Zaha will basically have to man-up and become a total team player and I’m sure he will without sacrificing the edge in his game. That’s what Ferguson is all about.
Has he been overrated by the media and fans?
I don’t think so. It’s easy to criticise him if you want to look at the stats, compared to Tom Ince for example who scores a lot more from a wide position. But Zaha is not a striker, he’s an out and out winger and if anyone can add goals to his game it’s your manager. I can’t write this much about Zaha and his value to the Palace side without a mention for his opposite number, Yannick Bolasie, who has been a revelation for Palace on the left wing this year, outshining Zaha on many occasions. They’ve brought the best out of each other this season, ribbing each other on social media networks about who nutmegged who in training. So while Zaha can be accused of being overrated, Bolasie in contrast has been woefully underrated. Just don’t tell Sir Alex.
Are you happy he has joined Manchester United rather than another Premier League club?
For a Palace fan it’s just a bit more reassuring to see that if a player leaves, he goes to a top club instead of Wigan or Southampton, with respect to those clubs. We’ve had too many of those, it makes you think they might as well stay a bit longer at our place. Zaha is proof of that now. We’ll follow his career closely at Old Trafford but until then, maybe some of your more Southern-based fans can come and check him out and make up the numbers at Selhurst this season!
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