Arsenal’s decision to favour a deal for Nicolas Pepe over an agreement for Wilfried Zaha is understandable, says Ray Parlour, but the former Gunners star admits he would love to see the Crystal Palace winger at Emirates Stadium.
Discussions were held with Zaha, with the Ivory Coast international making it clear that he would be open to linking up with the club he supported as a boy. Arsenal were, however, to snap up the 28-year-old’s fellow countryman Pepe with a club-record £72 million ($98m) deal put in place.
Little value has been found in that agreement, with those in north London left to ponder whether the right choices have been made.
The decision to overlook Zaha, as a proven Premier League performer, has been questioned by many, but a window of opportunity may not have been closed completely.
Ex-Arsenal midfielder Parlour told Stadium Astro of a player that Mikel Arteta got another good look at during the 0-0 draw at Emirates Stadium on Thursday: “I’m sure Emery would have loved to have someone like Zaha but again it’s down to the board and money available, I don’t know what the situation was with the funds they had behind the scenes.
“Pepe, they did that in a staggered way, probably paying £15m a year, which suited the French side [Lille] as well where he came from.
“Probably Crystal Palace wanted the money up front, which Arsenal couldn’t have done at that time, because they need to replace him - if you lose your best player you need to replace him. The deal probably wasn’t right for Crystal Palace if Arsenal couldn’t pay it up front - but certainly he’s a real talent.
“When he’s running at you full pelt, I wouldn’t like to play against him as a defender!
“You know he makes things happen, he goes down, he gets free-kicks in good areas, he can get penalties at times. He’s a real talent. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see him in an Arsenal shirt.”
Zaha could not help Palace to find a way through against Arsenal, while the Gunners drew a blank at the opposite end of the field.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failed to find the target once again, leaving him stuck on six goals for the season, and Parlour admits a talismanic presence tied to a lucrative new contract has become a little predictable.
He said of the Gabonese frontman: “He is captain of the side and people are looking up to him. He is a massive part of the club if they are going to get back into that top four.
“Maybe he just needs to roam a bit more as a player because he is always on that left side. He needs to go into the middle at times. At the moment, he is pretty straightforward to play against because you know where he’s going to be and where he’s going to go.
“When he was bang in form, he would pop up in areas you didn’t expect him to be. He has got to try something different. You have to try and make chances for yourself.”