By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal are in talks to sign Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace, Goal.com can reveal.
The north Londoners have opened negotiations with the Championship club in a bid to capture the highly coveted forward in January.
Despite Palace co-chairman Steve Parish and manager Ian Holloway both saying this week that Zaha will not be sold before the end of the season, Arsenal are increasingly confident of landing the newly-capped England international in the forthcoming window.
The Premier League club have indicated they will pay £10 million up front, plus £2m of add-ons, to secure the 20-year-old.
Palace would prefer for Zaha to spearhead Palace’s promotion challenge and remain at the club until next summer but Arsene Wenger wants to integrate the youngster into the Arsenal set-up immediately.
Wenger would be opposed to a deal that would allow Zaha to join in the forthcoming window and then be loaned back to the Championship club for the rest of the season.
The details of the negotiations will be similar to those involved in the Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deals, who were both hugely promising lower league players when they came on Arsenal’s radar before a January window. Walcott joined in January 2006 but the Oxlade-Chamberlain deal fell through in January 2011 and was delayed for six months, partly because Wenger did not want to loan him back to Southampton.
Zaha is under contract until 2017 and Parish has claimed it would take £20m to lure him away from Selhurst Park.
The attacker, who can play anywhere across the front three, has been a driving force in Palace’s surge to second in the Championship, scoring four goals in 20 appearances this season. He made his England debut as a substitute in the 4-2 friendly defeat to Sweden earlier this month.
The Premier League elite, including Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool, are all closely tracking Zaha but Goal.com understands that Arsenal are firmly in the driving seat to capture the boyhood Gunners fan.
Wenger confirmed Arsenal’s interest in Zaha in loose terms at his media briefing on Tuesday, saying: “We are looking at every player who could strengthen our squad - but he is not more on the list than anyone else.”
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This relatively innocuous comment was greeted with a furious reaction from Holloway, who accused Wenger of “bad etiquette” and declared he would be “picking the phone up to talk to him”.
Holloway is confident Zaha will not leave in the forthcoming window. “Wilf is a big part of our season — and we have such a strong contract others can go and whistle,” he said. “He won’t be available, no matter what the price is, in January.”
Parish was equally bullish earlier in the week.
“He will definitely be playing at Crystal Palace after January,” Parish told talkSPORT. “Why would we sell him? What would we achieve by selling him?
“We’ve been speaking this week with the players’ representatives, we’re focused on getting out of this division and that’s why we have an academy. We’d like to think his first chance in the Premier League will be playing with us.
“I can’t speak about deals that are things that are in the paper. No one has contacted me so we have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”