This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed for the interested side.
To suggest Arsenal were suffering buyer’s remorse after summer target Wilfried Zaha left the Emirates Stadium with a point last Sunday with Crystal Palace may be a slight overstatement.
Though having tried and given up on bringing the Ivorian to North London, only to have the 26-year-old’s quick feet bamboozle Calum Chambers enough to win a penalty for his side, the Gunners were dealt a little insight into what they could have had at the opposite end had they done the deal.
In contrast, eventual £72m record signing Nicolas Pepe had failed to help his team towards a victory that was controversially taken from their grasp thanks to video technology.
Arsenal bid £40m for Zaha at the start of July, which was upped a few weeks later with a players-plus-cash offer that totalled £55m, though the Eagles were hellbent on receiving a sum of around £80m for the player.
Having sealed a deal for Pepe, who was reportedly a target for the likes of Liverpool and Napoli, the Gunners may have been forgiven for thinking they had stolen a march on the European heavyweights – though the winger’s slow start at the Emirates (which has garnered just three goals so far) may give the club a sense of regret after witnessing Zaha’s input for Roy Hodgson’s team recently.
Aside from winning the penalty, Zaha had the highest passing accuracy rate of anyone on the pitch with 91.3%, and made himself a nuisance by being fouled four times, which included a rather dramatic pull-down from Gunners midfielder Matteo Guendouzi late on.
In fairness to Pepe, however, Zaha’s compatriot received a match rating from WhoScored (7.86) that was only topped by goalscorers Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Luka Milivojevic and Jordan Ayew.
Also, Zaha has only assisted twice himself this season for Palace having failed to get on the scoresheet thus far.
Nevertheless, the winger still represents an opportunity that the Gunners seem to have missed out on. Zaha has consistently performed this season in a Palace team who are arguably punching above their weight – with the Eagles currently in sixth place despite only winning two of their last six league games.
Zaha has an average WhoScored match rating of 6.98, while he has attempted 4.3 dribbles per game and posted a pass accuracy rate of 80.7% – both values which are higher than that of Pepe over 10 Premier League appearances each this season.
We may never know if an extra £8m would have seen Zaha become a Gunner, but there is evidence to suggest that Arsenal may have been better off going a bit further to bring him to the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal fans, should you have made a greater effort to sign Zaha, or are you happy with Pepe? Let us know in the comments below!
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