Wilfried Zaha says he was desperate to join Arsenal in the summer of 2019, and wonders why the Gunners opted for Nicolas Pepe instead of making the ‘no brainer’ decision to sign him.
The Crystal Palace star thinks clubs should prioritise signing players that they already know a lot about from facing them, with Zaha having frequently impressed against the Gunners over the years.
The Ivory Coast attacker had a discussion with then Arsenal boss Unai Emery ahead of the 2019/20 season, and he thought that he was on the way to sign for his boyhood club.
“I had a conversation with the manager, actually,” Zaha told Jamie Carragher on The Greatest Games podcast.
“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.”
Zaha says that Premier League clubs who know all about the players they come up against should look to be bringing in those players instead of taking gambles on stars from abroad who may not settle in to the division.
“I just think if there’s a player who plays in the Premier League who you see week in, week out, and you know what he does… I feel like it’s a no-brainer,” he said.
“The other leagues, I feel like they are totally different, in the Prem there are no easy games whatsoever. Every team is going to give you a run for your money. There’s no game where you’re going to go, ‘yeah, we’re going to win 5-0’.
“That’s my thought. I totally understand what you mean. I feel like when players come from abroad, I don’t know, they just have that edge with clubs, it’s just like [they say], ‘yeah, I may want him a bit more because he’s from there’.”
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