Is Wilfried Zaha the most over hyped player ever?

Pic courtesy of BBC Sport

It’s a pretty risky article to write on the day that the lad could make a blinding debut for England. But, even in an era of excessive superlatives, has there ever been a more over hyped player than Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha? He’s reportedly on the radar of Manchester United, amongst others, but is he really all that?

I’m sure he could turn out to be an excellent player. But it’s at least as likely that he is just the latest flash in the pan. The latest X Factor winner. A player who starts his career well but never realises the potential that the sensationalists clamour to attribute to him.  Yet another English winger who is fast but lacks genuine top drawer technique, vision and final ball – a footballer who may have been better served in the world of athletics. So is he really worthy of a Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea shirt?

When I look at Zaha, I see a player with confidence, pace and power, who is doing well against Championship defences. Sure he’s got a trick. One trick. A step over/ball shimmy between the legs which currently baffles players from the second tier. But this won’t wash for very long against a top team like Manchester United or Chelsea.

Is Zaha a truly graceful player? Does he have genuine guile or just gallons of gumption? Is he really so fleet of foot and full of flair and imagination that he will turn out better than Downing, Walcott, Young, Lennon, Pennant, Adam Johnson and the rest of the slightly disappointing English wide men of the last decade? Wingers who can do a decent job, but pale in comparison to really top international players, who have an altogether higher level of skill and football intelligence. Players who can change a game by themselves.

I say no. I say Zaha is decent but Tom Ince, for example, offers the real hope for the future. Ince, another Manchester United target, looks to me like he has real invention and skill on the ball. Conversely, when you view a Zaha highlights package on YouTube, you are mainly seeing ricochets, moves that nearly come off, half decent crosses, and Zaha doing little more than bundling the ball past opposition players. If these are the highlights then one can only imagine the lowlights. Could he play in The Premier League? Probably. Could he play for the Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea? Well he might be ‘stacked and racked’ by one of them, as Palace boss Ian Holloway suggested. But whether he would excel at such a club and at such a level is highly debatable.

I’m all for encouraging English players. We need as many as possible playing week in, week out in The Premier League. Hopefully the lad will go on to exceed my cynical expectations.

But perhaps Zaha is just another product of a failing English football system that prioritises athleticism and power over skill and ball control – the genuine wizardry that we all crave and that our clubs pay so much money for from abroad.

We’d love to hear from some Palace fans on this one. Do you think that Zaha is a cut above other recent prodigies? Or is this current hype simply hopeful speculation by a nation with a desperate dearth of top tier talent?

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  1. Richard

    Nov 14, 2012 at 10:23 am

    one trick??? obviously have never seen him play! He is head and shoulders the best player in the league as a lot of other managers in the league with agree with. I would say he is better than Moses was when he was at the club and he is doign well at Chelsea. He will easily be one of the best players in England if not the world in a few years time.

  2. Christian Kimber

    Nov 14, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I don’t really see the point in your blog as you imply are judging a player you have never seen? Also what gives you the supreme authority on footballers as your blog also suggest that you only seem to have an interest in Premiership football and your Snobbery towards smaller clubs could not be more evident by the ‘if he was any good he would already be at a Premiership Team attitude’ testifies. I am a Palace Fan and have seen what Zaha can do in the flesh a player and he certainly is not a one trick pony. The range of tricks that he posseses should bamboozle even most international players as he’s unpredictability makes him so difficult to read for Defenders. He has pace to burn, he can roll a challenge with the best of them. He’s overall team contribution can not be doubted as he is just as willing to pitch in and chase back. His final ball has been an issue in the past but has has improved dramatically along with his overall awareness and finishing and lest we forget he only turned 20 last weekend and improving games by game. His attitude and commitment for Palace can not be doubted so far.
    If he gets some game time against Sweden don’t be suprised to see a few unerved Swedes come full time!
    “He’s just too good for you”!

  3. Andy Duke

    Nov 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Have you seen him play live? If not, I suggest you keep opinions to yourself. Get fed up with people who only watch football on telly, watch highlights and then make comments about players as if they has scouted them for the past twelve months. I can tell you now, he’s TOO good for Championship defences. If he was in the Premiership player now – how would he do? Well…..he’s better than Moses who also started at Palace but not as old yet so would probably struggle up front due to his wiry frame at the moment, and he is a damn sight better than “Mr I’m better than anyone else Bostock” but on the wing he is lethal. Has developed a good temperament, is becoming unselfish, a good passer of the ball and lightning quick with his feet. Time will tell…..but as usual the cesspit journalism mentality in this country leads people build other people up with the intentions of bringing them down. I agree that the press releases of the last few days have been too much though. But for you to say he is just athletic and has no skill when you have obviously only seen highlights is ludicrous. You make me wish I was in China so that idiots like yourself can’t create shoddy, uninformed websites that spout a load of crap. My advice to you would be – get down the job centre and get the next trolly boy job as your sports journalism days are not looking too bright.

    P.S. Are you a Blackpool fan who is a bit miffed about the whole Holloway thing – if so, grow up mate.

  4. Vic Road

    Nov 14, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Lol, he wasn’t too good for Lloyd Doyley but then again not many are.

  5. Peter Stone

    Nov 14, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Tell you what buddyboy, take yourself down to Selhurst if you can prise yourself away from the so called top flight players. You mention Walcott, Lennon and the rest, and don’t get me started on Downing but I’ll tell you something Wilf is better than your list of names. He can play on the left or right, through the middle and is always prepared to track back to aid the defence. He is consistent, has team ethic, he wants to improve and his attitude is second to none. I have seen him ply his trade since his debut and since then, every season he has improved immensely. The enjoyment he gives the fans is worth the match ticket alone. When the defender is isolated, everyone is lifted of their seats wondering how will he beat him. I remember a premiership on loan defender was twisted in knots and fell on his backside. So a ”one trick pony” he is certainly not, he is a one off and to me he is the best footballer to come out of this country since Best and I have been a football fan for 40 odd years.

  6. Alex

    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Genuine question, have you ever actually watched him play? I’m not talking about 25 second highlights you probably don’t watch on the Football League Show, but the young player than gives full-backs the run-around every Saturday.

    Get to a match, actually watch some of these young players live before passing judgement. I’m sure it is easy to believe you understand the game from the comfort of your armchair, but there is far more to a player like Zaha than you have described.

  7. Gareth

    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    And James Milner, Wayne Rooney, Micheal Owen weren’t all overated youngsters who failed to live up to the hype surrounding them as youth players.

  8. Ollie

    Nov 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    You mention him not being able to out do the defence of the like of Man utd. Did you not watch the league cup game last season where fabio had to be taken off because Zaha was dicking all over him? And that was last season and hes has improved immensley since then. So as previously stated. Watch him play before commetning.

  9. James

    Nov 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I wont get angry with you or other “NON WRITERS” of the press in this country.
    Lets just say what is true – Zaha is a very special,gifted, exciting and natural talent.
    Whats more he is a great entertainer.
    He gets us all standing at Selhurst so we dont risk missing a second of him.
    As far as you and some of the press are concerned he really is “Just too good for you” as a person –
    let alone a footballer!

  10. Lisa

    Nov 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Yes, he is genuinely highly talented, and 2 years have show us how much potential he has to improve, and he now is beginning to blossom. One trick, my arse!
    So, are Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea really worthy of Wilf wearing their shirts?
    The only shirt that is worthy of gracing Wilf’s lean frame is the red and blue of Crystal Palace. He is South London and Proud.

  11. Nick

    Nov 16, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Poor article. You’ve never seen him play.

    I’m going to favourite this and when he’s a star in the Prem I’m gonna come back and haunt you!

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