Aaron Ramsey, Carl Jenkinson, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all young British talented footballers that Arsenal have plucked from the leagues below the Premier League in recent years. This could be a new strategy to secure some of the best British players. Each player to survive in the Championship and League One has had to, at the very least show fantastic physical potential. Ramsey the former cross-country runner; Jenkinson, again, a great runner – but also tall for a fullback; Walcott raw pace needs little introduction; Oxlade-Chamberlain built like a boxer and lightning-quick across the field. Other attributes they all possess include, to varying degrees, technique and versatility. Those three attributes are the gold standard for what the club want from a player who has yet to play on the biggest stages of the Premier League, European or their national team.
I was not surprised that Arsenal are looking to sign the exciting young forward Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. He is just 19 years old, 6 foot tall, naturally muscular, strong and quick. Born in the Ivory Coast, he moved to England as a teenager. There have reportedly been efforts from African icon Didier Drogba to persuade him to commit to the Ivory Coast as his national team, however for the moment he is playing for the under 21’s. A final decision will be made nearer the time is pushing for a full cap. A cursory search of his internet profile reveals that Zaha enjoys London life, wearing expensive clothes and the attention he is getting. Deservedly so.
What a turn around to be seen as a talisman for a club sitting at the top of the Championship, after a slow start to his own career. Crystal Palace Academy Manager Gary Issott has implied that Zaha had not, at first, been given the elevated status of a future star in the way other products of their academy like Victor Moses or John Bostock had.
Now his name is spreading faster than his twinkling feet – especially since his break out game last season at Old Trafford last season. It was the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup in November 2011. Zaha terrorised Fabio da Silva with runs from the left flank and got the Brazilian booked for his constant fouling. Satisfyingly for him still more, the right-back limped off with a hamstring problem – probably caused by repeatedly being stretched for pace. Zaha even won the free-kick eight minutes into extra-time from which Glenn Murray hit the winner.
He is a multi-positional attacker he is perfect for the 4-2-3-1 formation. He throws out tricks, slick moves and step-overs as his trademark. Alongside pace and done with confidence he has an end product to his play. Tricky players that embarrass defenders with pace or skill will be kicked hard and frequently. What they need is to be fearless, have a strong enough body to absorb it (Cristiano Ronaldo an exceptional example). Zaha has that body type. The tricks look Brazilian in technique, self-taught and natural. “When I was young I used to have a tennis ball inside my house and I used to do every trick for hours in my room,” he said.
As manager Ian Holloway said “God knows how good this boy is going to be. I have never seen anything like the things he does.” He is ahead of the current Arsenal squad players in his age bracket of 18-21 years, including Benik Afobe. If Serge Gnabry matches his standard in 2-3 years we will have another star on our hands with similar assets. The pressing facts are that this is a signing I really believe Wenger wants. Perhaps with his pace, skill and attitude he see’s a bit of Thierry Henry in him.
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