Crystal Palace want £80m for Wilfried Zaha and according to the Evening Standard, Everton are at least somewhat interested. I do not think this has any real chance of happening mostly because I believe rather passionately that Marcel Brands is not a complete moron. There is nothing about Zaha’s underlying numbers that justifies paying that kind of money for him, and I believe I can convince you of that in what follows.
He is simply put not good enough to warrant the outlay that would be required. Here is a statistical profile created of his season last year in response to Arsenal links a few weeks ago:
Wilf Zaha, Crystal Palace 2018-19.— StatsBomb (@StatsBomb) July 3, 2019
*cue endless screaming from the StatsBomb + Arsenal fan venn diagram* pic.twitter.com/PZOn2O1oPA
Zaha dribbles a lot but has a gaping hole in the finishing part of his game, not to mention he is absurdly turnover prone. Everton fans continue to be haunted by another former Eagles player who is still on the squad, Yannick Bolasie who managed to do everything but actually create goals.
To illustrate his problems further, let’s consider Ayoze Perez. Like Zaha he played for one of the less talented teams in the English Premier League last season, both spent a lot of time central in the attack (even when starting from the wing), and Perez just moved to Leicester City for about £30m. Here is a representative sample of their attacking metrics for the last three seasons:
As you can see, both players hover right around league average in nearly all categories. While their players styles differ a bit, what you are looking at is essentially the same quality player in both instances. Wilfried Zaha is 26 years old, this is not a situation where he is going to get dramatically better. He is what he is at this point and what he is simply is not that good. I think Leicester probably overpaid for Perez, imagine how much worse it would be to pay more than twice that for Zaha.
Another important comparison can show us what we sort of value we have gotten for attackers in recent years. What follows below are comparisons between Zaha and our three best attackers last year: Richarlison, Gylfi, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. I understand there are some positional discrepancies here, but it should still help us understand what we would be getting ourselves into.
First is our Icelander, Gylfi Sigurdsson. Of the players involved in these comparisons Gylfi plays the deepest, but notice he outpaces Zaha in expected goals (xG) expected assists (xA), shots, and key passes. We paid about half of what Crystal Palace expect for Zaha to acquire Gylfi.
Next we can look at Richarlison. Zaha clearly outperforms Richarlison in most creative metrics, but Richarlison is much younger (thus still developing), a far better finisher already, and again only cost about half of what Palace expects for their Ivorian star:
Now let’s compare him to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. I think this comparison is important because this is probably the position Zaha fits best in at Everton. The word all summer has been that we want a left-footed player on the right wing, and so while the right-footed Zaha has spent a lot of time out on the right I am not entirely convinced that’s where Silva would want to use him. Calvert-Lewin is younger and therefore has much more room to grow, and already creates more shots (and thereby more xG/90). Is Zaha better than DCL right now? Sure, absolutely, but he would also cost 40x more than we spent on the Blades product.
If you think Wilfried Zaha is a transformative star, more power to you but I just do not see it. His numbers could be replicated by a wide variety of forwards, he doesn’t have the footedness we have been saying all summer the right wing needs to have, and Crystal Palace’s evaluation is one of the more absurd notions floating in the transfer rumor sphere at the moment (which says quite at lot). I cannot say ‘no’ to a transfer any more emphatically than I do to this one. Zaha at £15m-£20m, okay cool. Even at Perez’s £30m that’d be a reach but at £80m, there are dozens of moves I’d rather make.
If Arsenal would rather throw that kind of money at Palace to show their fanbase that they are actually interested in competing for a top six spot, then they can have him.