Transfers

Palace should take Arsenal's latest offer to soften Zaha's exit

 • by Will Evans
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Arsenal‘s pursuit of Wilfried Zaha shows no signs of abating despite the Gunners’ inability to match Crystal Palace’s £90million valuation

The North London club’s negotiating power is being hamstrung by a transfer fund of just £40million, a relative pittance in 2019’s hyper-inflated market.

This is an era where fellow top-flight side Leicester City are being linked with a £45million move for Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, while their centre-back Harry Maguire attracts suitors despite an asking price of £80million. 

It is therefore little wonder Crystal Palace were so dismissive of Arsenal’s initial bid of £40million for one of the Premier League’s most exciting attackers.

But, unperturbed, the Gunners have returned with an improved offer for Zaha; reportedly proposing a deal that would see them pay £65million and send highly-rated youngster Reiss Nelson on loan to Selhurst Park for the coming season. 

On the face of it such a package may still not meet Palace’s valuation of the 26-year-old, but could Roy Hodgson’s men perhaps be unwise to turn down an offer that includes the makeweight of Nelson – a talented forward who excelled while on loan at Hoffenheim last season? 

It is worth noting there doesn’t appear to be a host of clubs queuing up for Zaha during this transfer window, with Arsenal the only team to have made a serious bid for the tricky winger.

When you then factor in he is rumoured to have expressed a desire to leave Crystal Palace and join the club he supported as a boy, it becomes evident the ball is not entirely in the South London side’s court. 

The Eagles’ may have Zaha tied down to a contract until 2023, but presumably they don’t want to be left with an unhappy player on their hands come 5pm on August 8 when the transfer window closes. Therefore lowering their asking price could be the best solution. 

Some form of part exchange is likely to be a factor in any deal due to the Gunners’ lack of available cash, with £5million-rated right-back Carl Jenkinson being mooted as a potential makeweight.

But while he would be a useful replacement for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, it is the possibility of Nelson moving to Selhurst Park that really catches the eye. 

The 19-year-old was the latest English prospect to have excelled in the Bundesliga – he found the net seven times in 23 appearances last season. That’s all the more impressive when you consider he only started five of those matches, and some of Nelson’s statistics from 2018/19 make for fascinating reading. 

The appeal of a loan move from Crystal Palace’s point of view is that the England Under-21 international could act as a direct replacement for Zaha, but some of his numbers were actually better than the Ivorian when we judge the two players on their output per 90 minutes played.

For example, Nelson scored an average of one goal per 90 compared with Zaha’s 0.29, and outperformed the Palace man when it came to shooting accuracy (52.3 per cent vs 36.9 per cent) and big chances scored (0.71 v 0.11).

It’s a similar story with shots and shots on target: Nelson managed 3.01 attempts on goal per 90 compared with 2.16 from Zaha, with 1.57 of them being on target versus 0.79 from the former Manchester United player. 

Could a deal involving Wilfred Zaha and Reiss Nelson work for both Arsenal and Crystal Palace?

The Arsenal academy prospect also posted better numbers when it came to completed tackles and possession won in the defensive and middle thirds of the pitch, but perhaps the most surprising statistic is his open-play xContribution.

This measures a combination of expected assists (xA) and expected goals (xG) per 90 and indicates that Nelson was projected to make an average of 0.19 more attacking contributions in each match than Zaha.

All of these statistics need to be weighed up against one important factor, however. Nelson’s numbers were recorded over a far smaller sample size and would likely drop over the course of an entire campaign. 

The fact remains, though, that Crystal Palace would be getting a very accomplished player to take the place of Zaha next term if Arsenal’s proposed deal were to be accepted. 

Palace may begrudge the idea of polishing one of the Gunners’ rough diamonds on their behalf, but this is a package that could work for all parties.

The Eagles would receive a large amount of money for a player who wishes to leave and have a readymade replacement with little of the transfer window remaining. 

With such an impressive impact in Germany last season, it may even be that Crystal Palace could improve with Nelson, rather than Zaha in their side for the 2019/20 campaign. That surely makes Arsenal’s latest offer a tempting one that is worthy of serious consideration. 

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