Wilfried Zaha To Manchester United: I Don't Buy The £15 Million Worth Of Hype
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, nearly every club in England with 7 million quid spare has been linked with the Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha at some point over the last month, but I still don’t think the player is worth the amount of attention he is getting.
For Wilfried Zaha to become a regular starter at a Premier League club he will have to improve inexorably and after 100 league games already, I just can’t see this happening. Simon Kuper said in “Why England Lose” that players do not really improve after the 50 games mark but before this, they can improve large amounts. Essentially, players will keep on improving but not to the extent that they did in their first 50 competitive matches. Of course, there are cases that disprove this rule, but largely these changes in form have also come from a positional or tactical change, Messi from right wing to centre forward for example.
Zaha is getting rave reviews, but this is mostly coming from the club he plays for. Ian Holloway seems obsessed with saying how brilliant he is at every opportunity, but should we take this at face value? He could be saying this to drive his price up or to motivate Zaha, not because he truly thinks he’s the best player he has ever worked with, although he may do. Holloway has form for this, doing something very similar with Charlie Adam whilst he was at Blackpool, eventually earning him a big move to Liverpool.
For me though, Zaha is a good player, but not one that is ready for the Champions League or the higher end of the Premiership. His main attributes are pace and dribbling and although these can produce mind blowing bits of skill at times and also make you wonder “just how the f*ck did he just do that?” objectively, players of this ilk can often be over rated. Look at Michael Carrick, probably England and Manchester United best holding midfielder for the last 3 years but still, people do not rate him highly as they think he “does not do enough”, but Carrick is key to both stages of Manchester United’s game and is obviously thought to be so by Alex Ferguson given by how often he plays him.
Zaha does not have a player like Carrick’s intelligence, he often dribbles when he should shoot and shoots when he should pass. His obsession with dribbling past players can lead to wonder goals but arguably decreases his side’s ability to create chances. His finishing is also fairly average with a conversion rate of 12% for his four goals so far this season.
If Zaha is not as good as he is made out to be then why do all the top clubs seem to desperately want him? Well you could argue that it is because I’m wrong and he’ll be at the World Cup in 2014 or, you could look at the premium on English players in recent years. The rule change that clubs needed to have players that are “homegrown” or trained in England has meant the top clubs in the Premier League have severely overspent on English talent. Look at Manchester City’s spending in the summer, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair for a combined sum of around 20 million. Or worse, look at Liverpool’s spending under Comolli; Carroll, Downing, Henderson. Players nowhere near as good as their transfer market value would tell you.
For me then, Zaha isn’t worth 10 million, but his price is indicative of the market that we’re currently in and Crystal Palace should cash in while they can.