Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has opened up about his failed move to Arsenal in summer 2019.
Of course, £80m is a lot of money for any club. But for Arsenal, it would’ve set a new club-record transfer fee.
Their reluctance to meet Palace’s valuation would be understandable, then – if they hadn’t agreed a similar fee of £72m to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille, albeit that sum being paid to the French club in instalments over a number of years.
Pepe has struggled to live up to his price-tag at the Emirates. He was only afforded 22 Premier League starts during his debut season, and this term has made more starts in the Europa League (six) than in the top flight (four), which is indicative of how lowly he features in Mikel Arteta’s pecking order.
And Zaha has now spoken out about the failed transfer saga, revealing that he held talks with then-Gunners boss Unai Emery, and suggesting Pepe was signed ahead of him because the former Lille star wasn’t an established Premier League player.
“He was just like, ‘we don’t need to go through much’. He’s seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that. It was like, ‘yeah, we’d love to have you’. And I was just like, ‘I’d love to come’.
“The conversation was rather straightforward because I’ve played against him when he’s managed Arsenal, he’s seen what I can do, he’s seen my work rate, what I can add to the team. Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose, and obviously they chose Pepe over me.”
When quizzed about Premier League clubs’ preference for signing foreign players, Zaha replied: “Yeah, 100 per cent. You’re seeing a player come from Brazil or another league, they’re always going to attract more attention.”
In fairness to Arsenal, 2019/20 was hardly a stellar year for Zaha after his dream move to north London fell through. He produced just seven goal involvements in the Premier League, the 28-year-old’s lowest return since the 2015/16 season.
Nonetheless, Zaha has bounced back this season and is currently joint-eighth in the Premier League’s Golden Boot race, despite Palace being a mere 14th in the table.
He looks a far safer bet than Pepe for Premier League goals this term, and with the Gunners only 11th themselves after a pretty disastrous start to the season, they’d certainly benefit from having Zaha in Arteta’s first-team squad right now.