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Zaha: the really worrying side about his move to Arsenal

By Sir Hardly Anyone

Today we hear that Arsenal have offered £40m for Zaha and Palace value him at £90m.   And the Daily Express tells us that Ray Parlour “wants Wilfried Zaha over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Man Utd eye Gunners ace”.  The reason is because Abua is now 30 and so, it seems, of less interest.  Even if he just comes on as an impact substitute and scores, it seems, a winger for £90m is a better deal than Auba!

It is just one of the many strange stories we hear at the moment.  For it was getting on for a week ago that the Daily Canon dismissed any notion that we might buy Zaha, saying…

“Arsenal are looking for a wide player and had been interested in Wilfried Zaha or Ryan Fraser. No Champions League football has put pay to signing either of those so they are looking for a cheaper alternative and Florian Thauvin’s name popped up despite Marseille reportedly wanting €50m for him.”

So were they right?  Was there never any chance of getting Zaha?   Or have Arsenal really bid £40m.

Certainly not everyone agreed that the deal was off several weeks ago, for at the same time as the Canon was reporting “no deal” the Mail was running the headline, “Wilfried Zaha pleads with Crystal Palace to let him join Arsenal – the club he supported.”

Anyway, would we really spend all the budget on one guy, and then wait for sales of other players to go through before having a penny more to spend on anyone?  It appears a bit risky.  But maybe Arsenal are sure the deal will be turned down and so are encouraging it to deflect from a deal they are really doing.  Or maybe despite everyone running the story, maybe it is still just a fantasy.

But for the moment with even the BBC saying on this morning’s radio that we have made a bid of £40m while Palace want more than double, no one is really questioning if any of this is true or if the player is worth this much.

Yet there is much to question.  Here are the Zaha figures

Season Team Games Goals
2010–2013 Crystal Palace 110 12
2013–2015 Manchester United 2 0
2013 Crystal Palace (loan) 16 1
2014 Cardiff City (loan) 12 0
2014–2015 Crystal Palace (loan) 16 1
2015– Crystal Palace 147 31

Now looking at those moves back and forth after the Man U trip, I am reminded of the Canon’s story about Florian Thauvin.  He is 26.  He is a winger, he has played for Marseille, gone to Newcastle, only played 13 games, gone back to Marseille on loan, and then signed again for Marseille.   I suppose he found the Newcastle night life a bit too soft for his taste.

But it is funny how both players could not make it at their new club, and so went back to the old one.  A coincidence?  Or is it all just make-believe?  Or should we be careful of players with a history of not settling down.

To look at that question let’s go back to Zaha and how he went to Man U and played two games.

In relation to his time at Man U, Zaha said that he suffered from depression.   Now this is a debilitating illness that affects a substantial minority of the population in England, and one of the big challenges about it is that it is very hard to deal with.   It is possible to take medication, but that can easily affect the player’s ability to play.  And it is an illness that can easily return, even when it has been treated and removed.

Which makes it a problem for a top footballer which is just as bad – or indeed worse – than any recurrent physical injury.

Zaha was the final signing by Sir Alex Ferguson.  The player was 19 and was given a five-and-a-half-year contract.  But then along came David Moyes.  Zaha played in the Community Shield under Moyes, and then just two Premier League games as a substitute before being shipped out on loan the following January.

When he finally went back to Palace he helped them avoid relegation, and has since commented that life in Manchester was hell.  Something I am sure many of us could sympathise with.

He also said, “There were rumours that the reason I wasn’t playing for United was because I slept with David Moyes’s daughter, and no one attempted to clear that up. So I was fighting my demons by myself, these rumours that I knew weren’t true.

“I was dealing with this at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived. They hadn’t given me a car, like every other player. Nothing. I’m living in this hell by myself, away from my family…  I had money but I was still so down and depressed. People think your life’s different because you’ve got money, you’ve got fame, so they don’t treat you the same.”

Quite why Zaha could not deal with that situation by making friends at the club, working with the club’s PR department, and the club psychologist to help him, or anything else is not explained.  Certainly the club must have had an interest in making Zaha mentally fit… but maybe that is part of Man U’s (or Moyes’) problem.  Maybe they just say “toughen yourself up” and that’s that.  It would be rather stupid, but maybe that is how Man U is run.

But that was some years ago and maybe Zaha has changed now he is a big star at Palace.   But here’s another thought.   Until the Zaha story broke, virtually every newspaper, TV station, radio station and blog was saying that Arsenal needed three defenders if we are even to stay in the top six.  So if we spend £40m (let along £90m) on a winger, where does that leave us with the search for three defenders?

I have never agreed we do need three defenders; but my point is different.   How come everyone seems to have dropped the defender idea and started getting excited about Zaha?  Is it so that

a) if Zaha doesn’t come they can blame Arsenal for being meek and not being bold enough to sign the player?

b) if Zaha does come they can blame Arsenal for being so dumb as to fail to realise that we didn’t need a winger we needed three defenders?

c) Or is it all a ploy by Arsenal to deflect attention from the real deal that is happening elsewhere which all the rather silly and shallow journalists have fallen for?

We shall see.

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