Could Zaha be the missing link for Hodgson?
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 9, 2016
Despite Crystal Palace’s depressing recent form, every cloud does seem to have a silver lining. Wilfried Zaha has not let recent results affect his performances, as the unconventional winger just keeps impressing. Wilf has been named Man of The Match against Norwich, Watford, West Brom, Liverpool, Stoke and Bournemouth so far this season; however are his efforts enough to merit a place in Hodgson’s 23 man squad?
Wilfried Zaha has already managed to earn himself two international caps, the first during his first spell at Palace and his second whilst playing for Manchester United. He made his international debut in an experimental squad, coming off the bench during England’s 4-2 defeat against Sweden, replacing Raheem Sterling in the 84th minute. His second came nine months later in a 3-2 win over Scotland, again only coming off the bench. In total Roy Hodgson gave Wilfried Zaha 21 minutes to prove himself worthy of a regular spot and unfortunately he hasn’t made an appearance since.
It is undoubted that there is considerable talent in the wide areas for England; Roy Hodgson should be ripping his hair out when it comes to only picking three or four wingers. A year ago it would have been fairly straight forward, Walcott, Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Nevertheless, this season quite a few players have started to stand out. Many people laugh at me when I suggest that both Antonio and Lennon should also both be in with a shout. Antonio has hit some great form and is chipping in with the odd goal too and Lennon is starting to look like the Lennon of old, Tottenham’s dangerous, pacey winger, Martinez actually seems to have rejuvenated his career.
Let’s focus on the facts between Chamberlain, Walcott, Zaha, Lennon and Antonio; Wilf creates, on average, 1.3 chances per game, this can only be challenged by Lennon, who creates 1.2 chances. Walcott, Chamberlain and Antonio don’t even manage to carve out an average of 1 chance per game. Furthermore, Zaha is the most successful dribbler in the entire Premier League, let alone amongst English wingers. 105 successful dribbles, averaging out at 3.75 successful dribbles per game; no other winger that can be considered manages to make even 2 successful dribbles per game. Finally, Zaha has made 35 key passes this season, almost double the amount of key passes made by Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Moreover, it is evident that Zaha is quite an unsung hero when it comes to the defensive side of play, winning 29 tackles this season. When you compare this with Walcott’s 7 successful tackles, it looks extremely respectable. Plus, when you consider Zaha’s 24 interceptions, only to be bettered by Antonio’s 31, you start to realise what a shift he can put in for the team and what an influence he has on the way Crystal palace have operated.
Nonetheless, I realise that a lot of stats can be manipulated in order to try and prove any point, therefore it is important to look at his overall game away from the numbers.
Alan Pardew famously referred to Wilfried Zaha as a ‘Maverick’, ‘I can’t think of anyone in the England squad who can actually beat someone from a standing start quite like Wilf.’
‘I look at the wide players and they’re more give and go sort of players – speed and running and passing – whereas Wilf will take people on and beat people.’
You look at Walcott and Chamberlain, Pardew is right, they have been nurtured and are reluctant to take a player on, perhaps scared to lose the ball. Whereas Zaha will look to beat a player and try to make something happen and if he loses it he will try to win it back, he made 11 recoveries on Sunday alone.
There are 5 friendlies to come before the Euro 2016 campaign kicks off and in my opinion giving Zaha another chance to prove himself for England is a no-brainer. He is the best right winger England have at this moment in time and has consistently performed throughout the season, he has earned himself at least a couple of friendlies ahead of the tournament.
I am not saying that Walcott and Chamberlain should not travel to France this summer but what is the point in taking both? Zaha offers a different outlook, a plan B to work with, either starting or coming off the bench; he offers something that no other England player can offer. I am confident that one chance this summer will kick start Zaha’s international career and he will be able to establish himself as an England regular alongside the likes of Kane, Alli, Dier and Butland.