It’s a rare occasion for any player to appear under our Scouting radar twice in a single season. With a loan move from United to Cardiff last week, Wilfried Zaha becomes a Moving Target just three months after his initial Scout Report:
His arrival at Cardiff – alongside Fabio – follows a trend of young, attack-minded players joining the Bluebirds ranks as Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer revamps his Premier League strugglers. The move comes at a good time for the talented young winger, with Adnan Januzaj stealing the limelight as United’s latest hot prospect and the arrival of Juan Mata only serving to further reduce his chances of game time. Speaking on his arrival, Solskjaer identified the new signing as someone who will make the difference in the attacking third:
“He has pace, power, technical ability and goes past people. He will give us that extra change of tempo in the final third, where we really need it… He will bring that little final bit to find pockets of space and produce a bit of magic.”
The Ivory Coast-born Zaha joined Palace’s youth set-up at just nine years of age before making his debut for the club eight years later. His first campaign as a regular produced a single goal and five assists from 41 appearances, before Zaha went on to deliver six goals and seven assists in 2011/12.
The following season, Zaha became Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing at United when he sealed a £15m deal to bring the Crystal Palace talent to Old Trafford back in January of 2013. The youngster remained at Selhurst Park for the remainder of the season, playing a key role in their successful promotion campaign. Zaha went on to finish the season strongly, registering six goals and eight assists in 43 league games and signed off in style by scoring a couple of goals and creating one in the Championship play-offs as he fired Palace back into the top flight.
According to Moyes, the champions received several offers for Zaha and identified the Bluebirds as the right club for the winger to gain top-flight experience. After the loan deal was confirmed, the United boss explained the reasoning behind his decision to allow Zaha to move to Wales temporarily:
“I said right at the start of the season that if I could get Wilf the games, I’d keep him, but if I couldn’t then I’d get him some games on loan… in the end we felt Cardiff was the right choice for him. Hopefully he will go and get those games, show what he can do in the Premier League and be ready to come back to us at the end of the season”
Considering that he had previously managed just 30 minutes under Moyes, it’s fair to say Zaha’s Fantasy prospects can only be improved by his Bluebirds move. Comfortable on both flanks, and with the ability to play through the middle – either as a striker or in a supporting role – the youngster’s versatility will provide Solskjaer with plenty of options, though we expect him to line up on the left of a 4-2-3-1, as he did in this weekend’s victory over Norwich.
The fleet-footed winger was credited by his new manager as having “changed the game” on Saturday’s debut, a performance in which he assisted Craig Bellamy for the equalising goal after replacing Peter Whittingham. Indeed, Whittingham looks the likeliest to be affected by Zaha’s arrival – having started every league game thus far, he was somewhat ruthlessly withdrawn by Solskjaer just 38 minutes into the Canaries encounter. Given Zaha’s immediate impact, Whittingham’s 7% of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) owners have valid reasons for concern as Solskjaer injects more pace into his side on the flanks.
With current ownership sitting at less than 2%, and a drop in price from 6.5 to 5.4 in FPL, Zaha (priced at 4.9 in the Sky Sports game and 1.5 in the Sun Dream Team) may well be worth our consideration as a budget midfield prospect if his display against the Canaries is anything to go by. Ironically, it comes at a time when Januzaj’s game time has diminished as a result of Mata’s arrival at Old Trafford, while the likes of the similarly-priced Ross Barkley has struggled for returns, with just one goal in his last 15 appearances.
The short-term fixtures are also in Zaha’s favour. Games against Swansea, Villa, Hull and Fulham in their next five could allow early adopters the chance to prosper in the coming weeks, whilst those already holding Jason Puncheon may even consider Zaha as a viable midfield partner – Cardiff and Palace offer a home/away rotation for 11 of the remaining 14 Gameweeks.