Whilte it’s true that Zaha has not been tried at the highest level yet, F.A cup and Championship is not exactly the most prestigious league in the world, so it is hard to say how he will do in the Premier League and especially the tough UEFA Champions League highlights 2013, but his form in Crystal Palace first team in the last couple of years has been excellent.
For those still not sure who this kid is, here is a quick run down. Born in the Ivory Coast, moved to England aged four, signed up by Palace’s academy aged 11, made his first-team debut in 2010, has now played over 100 games for the club and made his England senior debut in November. The young star will be expected to turn heads and affect even the best Premier League 2013 predictions this season.
As a player he is like nothing else we have seen at Selhurst. His main strength is his ability to beat a man one-one-one, or often three-on-one. Put as many defenders as you like in front of him and he will find a way to get past them. He is able to do this thanks to some god-given ability on the ball, I have never seen anyone do the sort of tricks he does, and often at speed. Imagine Cristiano Ronaldo when he was at United, only with better hair.
Zaha’s best position is wide of a front three, he was played in the No.10 role recently for Palace, behind the front man, but struggled in an area of the pitch where space is limited. Give the young star some space to run into and he is deadly. He loves taking players on, this is his bread and butter and most weeks he does it with a gleeful smirk across his face.
Yes, this is only the Championship, but he has already come up again Premier League defenders, and each time he has made mincemeat of them. Take Fabio for example. The Manchester United defender, and Zaha’s future team-mate, had to fake an injury just so he could be substituted during the 2011 League Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford after just 35 minutes to avoid 65 more minutes of torment at the hands of Zaha. The Palace man had already bamboozled him numerous times in the opening half an hour. And this is a Brazil international, Fabio and his brother Rafael has been featured in Champions League and the national team of Brazil.
Then there was Martin Olsson, the Blackburn and Sweden left-back, who is trying to force a move back to the Premier League this transfer window. Wilf tore him a new one when Rovers came to Selhurst and lost 2-0 in November, including some ridiculous tricks that you only usually see on FIFA13 when you hold down the right trigger and wiggle the analogue stick around.
Yes. the stats are not that mind blowing; 15 goals in 123 games is not great for a striker, but then Zaha is not a pure striker. And four assists this season would suggest he does not get involved that much, but he offers so much more. He unsettles teams, he drags two, sometimes three, defenders out of position, and the likes of Glenn Murray (23 goals) have profited for Palace this season, the often double marked Van Persie will absolutely love his new team mate. The aforementioned roasting of Fabio made United so nervous that night it allowed little old Crystal Palace to win at Old Trafford, against a team that including Dimitar Berbatov, Antonia Valencia and Ji-Sung Park.
It is true, though, that consistency is not his strong point. One week he will be Palace’s best player, setting up or scoring a goal and spending 90 minutes putting defenders on their backsides, but the next week he could be anonymous, a frustrated, gangly ball of limbs flailing in all direction while defenders happily nick the ball from him. But that is purely down to experience. The more he grows, and under the right stewardship, is encouraged to use the ball properly, the quicker he will become the finished article.
And don’t forget the surprise factor, Zaha is unknown on the continental stage, never been anywhere near the UEFA Champions League highlights 2013, so he’s will not single-handed decide the outcome of a match between two giants like Man Utd and Real Madrid, or will he? Anyway the unpredictability and sheer hunger of a ascending star may be exactly the thing Man Utd need in the appropriate moment, when Van Persie, Rooney or to some extent Kagawa have been veterans in this battlefield.