Crystal Palace superstar Wilfried Zaha has revealed that he was close to completing a switch to Arsenal in 2019.
As quoted by Evening Standard, Wilfried Zaha has opened up about his proposed move to Arsenal back in 2019. During an appearance on Jamie Carragher’s podcast, the Crystal Palace winger has revealed that he was on the verge of completing a switch to the Emirates.
However, Palace’s stiff demands meant that the Gunners ultimately had to settle for Nicolas Pepe. The winger was brought in from LOSC Lille for a club-record fee of £72 million, but the money was to be paid in installments, thus requiring very little payment upfront. It ultimately helped Arsenal sanction the transfer.
Zaha has also revealed that he was highly rated by former Arsenal manager Unai Emery, stating, “[Unai] Emery was just like, ‘We don’t really need to go through much’. He said he’d seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that. He was like, ‘Yeah we’d love to have you’ and I was just like, ‘Yeah I’d love to come’.”
Unfortunately for Zaha, financial difficulties meant that the Gunners had to settle for Pepe, who has proved to be a flop at the Emirates. During his one-and-a-half year at Arsenal, the Ivorian has even failed to establish himself as a first-team regular at the club, notably mustering only 453 minutes of league football in the ongoing campaign.
As a matter of fact, Pepe has fallen behind the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in recent weeks, thus mostly featuring in cup games this term. Although his tally of 3 goals and 3 assists in the Europa League is quite impressive, most of those performances have come against lower-tier teams. The player has failed to replicate those efforts in the Premier League.
Arsenal, therefore, will be ruing their decision of going after Pepe. It has not only affected the club from a sporting perspective but also crippled their financial powers. And with another superstar in Mesut Ozil also bagging lucrative wages despite sitting on the sidelines, it is rather unsurprising as to why the north Londoners have relied heavily on the services of academy products lately.
Zaha, in contrast, would have proved to be a more valuable signing for the Gunners. The Palace winger has considerable experience in the Premier League and his direct style of play could have suited Arteta’s tactical philosophy. But it won’t be unreasonable to envision a potential move to Arsenal in the future, especially as the club looks to finally get rid of Ozil, who is reportedly on the cusp of joining Fenerbahce.