After fending off interest from Arsenal and Everton over the summer, Crystal Palace look set for another transfer battle over Wilfried Zaha as Chelsea become the latest to be linked with the winger.
The Ivory Coast international has been Palace’s star man over the past few seasons and managed 10 goals and five assists during 2018/19. Despite note quite matching those standards so far this term, the Daily Mail now claims Zaha is “on the radar” of Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
Chelsea chasing Wilfried Zaha transfer? Five things to know…
- After Zaha missed out on moves to Everton and Arsenal, Palace Chairman Steve Parish admitted the player wanted to “further his career” with a Champions League club.
- But it seems Palace are sticking firmly to their £80m valuation of their prized asset.
- The Mail report that Chelsea are now targetting Zaha after their transfer ban was lifted.
- Zaha has completed more dribbles (79) than any other Premier League player this season.
- Wilfried Zaha transfer odds: Chelsea (3/1), PSG (12/1), Leicester City (12/1), Man Utd (16/1)
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The Blues recently had their two-window transfer ban halved, meaning they can once again look to sign players in January. Lampard says they will look at replacing the goal of Eden Hazard, who moved to Real Madrid in the summer. Whether they are willing to stump up the £80m fee demanded by Palace for Zaha’s services isn’t clear, however.
Where would Zaha fit into the Chelsea XI?
With Willian and Pedro most certainly heading out of their prime years, Zaha represents a long-term option for Lampard. His most obvious competitors in those wide areas are USMNT star Christian Pulisic, and young England international Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Given the superior experience of Pulisic and Zaha, you’d expect Hudson-Odoi to be the one missing out on the starting XI initially. Pulisic would likely retain the left-sided berth which has brought him so much joy in recent months at Chelsea, although he and Zaha could easily switch sides to keep opposition full-backs on their toes and guessing.
Of course, Lampard is no stranger to making big decisions regarding his starting XI and should Pulisic’s form fall away, or Hudson-Odoi flourish, he will have no problem in ringing the changes.
Hudson Odoi starting would likely see Zaha start off on his favoured left flank, where he can use his trickery to cut inside of opposition full-backs and force slower centre-backs into one-on-one duels. Once again, though, give the fluidity of Chelsea’s forward line, the option for Hudson-Odoi and Zaha to switch sides is very much there — both are equally adept at cutting inside and driving to the byline.
One final option available to Lampard is to play Zaha through the middle, essentially in a false nine role.
Crystal Palace have been desperately short of natural goalscorers over the years and in an attempt to squeeze more final-third productivity out of his side, Roy Hodgson has often deployed Zaha centrally. Furthermore, Lampard himself has recently hinted he could use Pulisic in a similar fashion, showing the former midfielder isn’t afraid to make a big tactical change.
This scenario would only likely happen if striker Tammy Abraham (who has scored 11 Premier League goals already this season) were to pick up an injury or suspension. However, give that Zaha already has extensive experience playing through the middle, he would likely jump up the pecking order ahead of Pulisic for that particular role, should Lampard find the need.
What winners and losers would Chelsea signing Zaha create?
- Winner – Wilfried Zaha: An obvious one, but this would be the perfect reward for Zaha after missing out on two possible transfers over the summer. The Ivorian would finally get his move to a Champions League club and remain in London, which was one of the initial sticking points when Everton came calling.
- Loser – Willian: The Brazilian winger has time and again stated his intention to remain at Stamford Bridge. However, at 31 years old, his peak days are numbered and the arrival of a younger, more sprightly wideman would only limit his chances of a new contract further, with Chelsea likely well aware of the need to recoup the outlay spent on Zaha.
- Winner – Frank Lampard: The new Chelsea boss has done a wonderful job so far, keeping the Blues in the top four and progressing to the Champions League knockout rounds. However, recent results have illustrated a need to add depth the squad and with that transfer ban lifted, he can now finally dip into the market. The £80m capture of one of the league’s finest forwards would not only send a message to the rest of the Premier League, but also outline the Chelsea hierarchy’s faith in their manager.
- Loser – Callum Hudson-Odoi: There’s absolutely no doubting Hudson-Odoi’s talent but injury has hampered his development so far. That said, every time he takes the field, he looks the part, but Zaha coming through the door could seriously limit his minutes at a vital time in his development. It’ll be important for Lampard to manage this situation to ensure Hudson-Odoi doesn’t fall by the wayside.
- Loser – Roy Hodgson: Despite being armed with £80m in the market should Zaha leave, there’s no denying losing his star man could cripple Hodgson at Selhurst Park. The Ivorian offers qualities few in his Palace side, or the rest of the Premier League, can and it’s hard to see him being able to sign a replacement of equal or greater talent, regardless of how much money he has at his disposal.