Wilfried Zaha has revealed he held talks with Unai Emery over a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2019 but has questioned the Gunners’ decision to sign Nicolas Pepe instead.
Zaha has been frequently linked with Arsenal, including in the current window. That was no different 18 months ago, when the winger was pushing for an exit from Crystal Palace in order to play European football.
Arsenal were the favourites to sign him, particularly with Emery looking to make changes to his squad. The Spaniard was also keen on signing the former Man Utd winger.
A move never materialised though, with Arsenal signing Nicolas Pepe in a big-money deal instead.
And Zaha has now explained exactly what happened in that saga. Speaking to Jamie Carragher’s ‘The Greatest Game’ Podcast (via The Metro), Zaha said: “I had a conversation with the manager, actually.
“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.”
Neither player enjoyed a successful 2019/20 campaign as they both struggled for form. Zaha, unhappy at staying at Selhurst Park, scored just four goals.
Pepe, meanwhile, outscored him by just one as he failed to live up to his lofty £72million price tag.
Overseas players more attractive
Zaha also stated he believes that he wasn’t the one to switch to North London because he was a player already in the Premier League.
Pepe was recruited from Ligue 1 club Lille, but Zaha felt he had proved himself enough with his performances to deserve the move.
“Yeah, 100 per cent,” he said when asked if players from foreign leagues are preferred.
“You’re seeing a player come from Brazil or another league, they’re always going to attract more attention. But 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.
‘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’.”
Zaha will have another chance to make Arsenal regret their choice when he visits the Emirates with Palace next Thursday.