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Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha linked with Manchester United return

4 min read

Wilfried Zaha has told Crystal Palace he wants to leave the club this summer – but in what areas does he excel and what would he offer potential suitors?

The Ivory Coast international wants to play Champions League football and has been linked with a return to United – after an unsuccessful, two-year spell at Old Trafford ended in 2015.

I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it. And I’ll do the rest.

Wilfried Zaha, speaking to the Daily Mail

SAS GEO ERRORThis video is not authorized in your locationRELOAD YOUR SCREEN OR TRY SELECTING A DIFFERENT VIDEOWith Wilfried Zaha linked to a move away from Crystal Palace, we take a look at some of his best goals and skills from the last few seasons in the Premier LeagueSponsored link

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However, the silky-skilled winger signed a new five-year deal at the start of this season and the club have reportedly slapped a £70m price tag on the 26-year-old – having paid United only £6m for his services four years ago.

Key stats & form

It’s not hard to see why the big clubs are circling for his signature – having attempted more dribbles than any other player this season and won a league-topping six penalties – while only Eden Hazard was fouled more frequently.

In addition, the Ivorian ranks fourth among top-flight forwards for fast breaks, touches in the opposite box and defensive duels won per 90 minutes. In short, he’s a menace for opposition defenders.

Luka Milivojevic shored up the season as the Eagles’ top scorer with 12 goals, but 10 of those came from the penalty spot – while Zaha notched 10 from open play from a team-topping 50 attempts on goal.

Wilfried Zaha, Premier League, 2018/19

  • 34Games played3,040Minutes played34Starts4Sub off

His numbers for assisting team-mates weren’t too shabby either, creating 54 chances – of which, five resulted in goals.

Player ranking — Crystal Palace

  • 1L. MilivojevicCrystal Palace122W. ZahaCrystal Palace103A. TownsendCrystal Palace64M. BatshuayiCrystal Palace55J. SchluppCrystal Palace4

His most prolific partner this season was striker partner Townsend, assisting each other on four occasions in equal measure, followed by flying left-back Patrick van Aanholt – who teed up Zaha three times during the campaign.

The shot below below shows how Zaha is economical in front of goal, taking the majority of his shots from inside the penalty box, in the left edge region – but he is actually most prolific when finding space on the right of the six-yard box.

In terms of creating chances for team-mates, Zaha carved the majority of opportunities for colleagues by firing passes into the box from the left channel, or cut-backs inside the area – as presented in the graphic below.

According to the Power Rankings, his form followed a similar pattern as in 2017/18, starting and finishing the season impressively – with standout performances against West Ham, Leicester, Arsenal and Cardiff this term.

Positional & passing

Typically spearheading the Eagles’ attack, on the left of Townsend in a 4-4-2 formation, Zaha frequently drifted to his favoured flank for angled entry into the penalty box – traits of wide players at Liverpool and Manchester City.

Working down that left flank, his passes have typically been directed to the right, further up the pitch – resulting in a slightly lower accuracy – or backwards, after making progress down the wing.

The passing sonar above translates in his favoured passing partners, too, frequently receiving or exchanging passes from Van Aanholt behind him or central midfielders James McArthur and Milivojevic.

The running stats emphasise how the Ivorian ruffles defences with his darting runs and cutting dribbles, with his average of 15.69 sprints per game ranking third among all Premier League players to clock 1,000 minutes or more.

Wilfried Zaha, PL, 2018/19 (per 90 ranks 1000+ mins)

StatTotalPL rank
Km covered per 909.30 km233rd
Sprints per 9015.693rd
Top speed34.73 km/h31st

Alternative options

However, if Palace dig their heels in and block approaches for the Ivory Coast star, Football Whispers data provides a range of alternative players with similar skillsets.

I’m too ambitious. And not ambitious just to play for a top club, but to win things at club level and with the Ivory Coast.

Wilfried Zaha, speaking to the Daily Mail

That list also includes the likes of Josh King, Ante Rebic, Sadio Mane, Marcus Rashford, Gerard Deulofeu and Alexandre Lacazette – with the former two being potential candidates to replace Zaha should he leave the club.

Other lesser-known prospects include Ismaila Sarr, Mikel Oyarzabal, Joelinton, Dodi Lukebakio, Nicolas Pepe, Henry Onyekuru, Federico Chiesa, Raphinha and Domenico Berardi.

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