Is this former Manchester United star ready to step up for Crystal Palace?
Breaking into first team football at the tender of 17, the young, pacey, skilful winger was touted to achieve great heights in the game. The product of an academy that includes Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne, Ben Watson, Wayne Routledge and John Bostock amongst its graduates, Wilfried Zaha was hailed as the Eagles next big superstar. A move to Premier League giants Manchester United in January 2013 didn’t really work for him and now he’s found himself back at Selhurst Park, showing the same skills that originally attracted the Red Devils.
Players of the computer game Football Manager and Palace fans themselves must have already been aware of his potential before his 10 minute cameo in his only game of the 2009-10 season against Cardiff City. A month later and he had signed a two year professional contract with Crystal Palace. The following season saw him notch up 44 appearances, a goal and 2 assists and Palace’s Young player of the Year award. 48 appearances, 9 goals, 5 assists, Football League Young Player of the Year and his second Palace Young player of the Year award followed in 2011-12. It wasn’t too long before a £10m – rising to £15m – transfer to the Red Devils was completed in Jan 2013. Loaned straight back to Palace, Zaha played a key role as they were promoted to the top flight.
The talented 21 year old found himself fighting for a position in the star-studded United squad. He moved further down the pecking order after the emergence of Adnan Januzaj. David Moyes sent Zaha out on loan to a struggling Cardiff City. 12 appearances, 7 chances created, a shot accuracy of 57% justly reflected the form of player low on confidence.
A managerial change at Old Trafford wasn’t enough to save Zaha, as he found himself back out on loan, this time at Selhurst Park, with a permanent move back to Palace in January 2015 coming soon after for an undisclosed fee; reported to be £3.5m raising £6m. The move back “home” has seen his career rejuvenated.
31 league games, 4 goals from a 58% shooting accuracy, 73% pass accuracy and 14 chances created last season makes for better reading for this young man. From 14 league appearances this term, Zaha has a 71% accuracy from 12 shots, attempted 3.3% dribbles per game, a 79% passing accuracy, created 18 chances and contributed with two assists and two goals – the first against Norwich City at the start of the season and the most recent came in the 5-1 home thrashing of Newcastle United.
Wilfried Zaha is different player to the one that put on a Manchester United shirt two seasons ago. There are various factors as to why this young player is starting to show the potential many people saw in him back in 2010. Prior to his Old Trafford move, Zaha had played more than 40 games for three consecutive seasons. He only made a couple of competitive starts under David Moyes and only featured twice in the Premier League too, both coming as substitute appearances. Last season however, he made 35 appearances in all competitions. This time around, he’s been Palace’s most featured player, with 17 appearances in all competitions. A regular run of games is what any player needs, especially at the age of 23, when trying to achieve quality consistent performances.
Furthermore, Zaha has been given a boost of confidence due to his a good relationship with Alan Pardew. In an interview given to the Daily Mail he says: “Pardew speaks to you more, he doesn’t keep you in the dark about things – that’s why I prefer someone who is open”. This is stark comparison to his relationship with David Moyes. Zaha claims the Scot “all but ignored him at United’s training ground at Carrington, preferring to speak only to those involved at weekends.”
There are no more rumour mills concerning Zaha’s attitude or off the field behaviour. His time at United was dominated with rumours of a burgeoning relationship with Lauren Moyes; daughter of David, having a poor attitude towards training and not trying his best in his brief appearances. Now at The Eagles, there aren’t any stories coming out about the player misbehaving instead we’re reading he donates 10% of his salary to charities. He has allowed a camera crew to follow him about into his home to show his fans how he lives off the pitch.
He’s forged a great understanding with his Palace team-mates. A midfield made up of McArthur, Cabaye, Bolasie and Puncheon have started to cause opposition massive problems especially in the opposition’s final third. His understanding with left back Pape Souaré; and when he switches to the opposite flank with Joel Ward, have made the Eagles a dangerous outfit to play against. The contribution of a solid defensive mixed with fast counter-attacking players have managed to claim away victories against Chelsea and Liverpool which leaves them currently sitting in eighth place.
Wilfried Zaha has become comfortable and familiar with his surroundings. He’s enjoying living in London, near his family and friends. As he says himself the main thing for him is “where my family is.” His performances on the pitch have come on leap and bounds. He needs to try and achieve consistent top quality performances and iron out issues such stimulation – an offence which ruled him out of the fixture at Everton – before we and he can start considering himself for an England call up.
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