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Besides securing a huge three points over last year’s third-placed side in Manchester United, Crystal Palace’s victory at Old Trafford was significant in that it was the first time the Eagles would score three times in a game since May 2019.
Saturday was the first time in 40 games that the South London side had found the back of the net three times in the Premier League since 2018/19. They claimed a win and also edged the Expected Goals 1.91 to 1.10, and talisman Wilfried Zaha played a big part in making that happen.
On his old stomping ground, a motivated and resurgent Zaha put the Red Devils to the sword with a brace to seal the game for the Eagles. The first was a pressure penalty — Jordan Ayew had missed the first attempt — while the second saw him outmuscle a struggling Victor Lindelof before firing a low effort past David De Gea.
After an underwhelming 19/20, the attacker’s place as Palace’s talisman was under real threat. However, if the opening two games of the campaign offer a forecast into the new season, the Ivory Coast winger remains their most important attacker.
The Palace forward was the team’s out-ball when they needed to break forward and the fact he carried the ball the farthest distance towards goal compared to other teammates demonstrated this. Also, the ex-United winger played the most passes into the final third (three), the only pass into the penalty area and was joint-second for progressive passes played.
Unsurprisingly, he created two chances —only the impressive Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend fashioned out more — to cap off a pretty good outing at the Theatre of Dreams.
Indeed, Zaha, now up to three goals for the new campaign, has had reports of a move away gather momentum in recent days after a strong start to the season. The wide attacker could be a beneficiary of the extension of this season’s summer transfer window, and links to Arsenal have been resurrected. The three other sides supposedly considering a move for the 27-year-old include Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.
So, how would the Ivory Coast international fit in, theoretically, at the aforementioned sides?
The Gunners are reportedly considering going back for Zaha, a year after opting against signing the Crystal Palace man—they acquired Nicolas Pepe instead for a record £72 million fee.
Given Mikel Arteta’s starting trio in the forward positions are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette and Willian — with Pepe still waiting in reserve — it’s unclear as to how the West African would fit in at the Emirates Stadium.
Undoubtedly, his match-winning capabilities aren’t in question and he could potentially become one of the top players in the red-half of north London.
With Arsenal’s tricky financial situation, the Gunners could throw in a player in the negotiations to sweeten any possible deal between the sides.
If a pathway into the Arsenal side was difficult, it’s probably even more of an issue fitting Zaha into Frank Lampard’s team.
Granted, injuries to Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech have left the west Londoners having to utilise Kai Havertz and Mason Mount out wide vs Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool respectively, their imminent return makes any potential move for the Palace player near impossible.
Also, there are more pressing issues for Chelsea to address — goalkeeping bugbear and defensive midfield imbalance — so a deal for Zaha may be far-fetched.
Just like at Arsenal, it’s difficult to see how the direct Zaha fits.
He can’t play up top as Harry Kane will start most games, Son Heung-min is the first-choice left winger/inside forward while Gareth Bale will most likely play on the right when fit.
Lucas Moura is tipped to be made fourth choice attacker upon Bale’s return, making it extra difficult to convince Zaha to move to the Lilywhites this summer.
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It’s interesting to note how the Toffees have suddenly become more attractive almost overnight.
The Merseyside club wanted to sign Zaha last year but couldn’t reach an agreement with the Eagles. Since then, Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival has heralded the acquisition of Colombia star James Rodriguez, probably the side’s biggest signing in Premier League history.
They’ve also brought in Allan from Napoli and Abdoulaye Doucoure from relegated Watford, signalling their ambition to break into the top six or even the Champions League spots.
As it is, a spot in their side may also to hard to come by but the sense of purpose at Goodison Park could attract Zaha to make the switch.