Wilfried Zaha believes it should have been a ‘no brainer’ for Arsenal to sign him over Nicolas Pepe after revealing he held talks with former manager Unai Emery over a move to the Emirates.
Zaha came close to leaving Crystal Palace during the summer transfer window in 2019 with both Arsenal and Everton having expressed an interest in the star, who has revealed he held ‘straightforward’ discussions with Emery over a switch to the former.
The north London side were keen to strengthen their attacking options but ultimately opted against meeting the Eagles’ asking price for Zaha, instead signing Nicolas Pepe in a club-record £72m deal from Lille.
“I had a conversation with the manager,” Zaha explained on the Greatest Game Podcast. “[Unai] Emery was just like, ‘We don’t really need to go through much’.
“He said he’d seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that.
“He was like, ‘Yeah we’d love to have you’ and I was just like, ‘Yeah I’d love to come’.
Hard-work. Nothing else 💪🏿 pic.twitter.com/mlKm6Rj6AR
— Wilfried Zaha (@wilfriedzaha) January 7, 2021
“The conversation was rather straightforward because I played against him when he was manager of Arsenal. He saw what I could do, saw my work-rate, and what I could add to the team.
“Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose and they chose Pepe over me.”
The signing of Pepe – an international teammate of Zaha’s with the Ivory Coast – has so far proven to be a huge disappointment with the winger having struggled to make an impact during his 18 months in the Premier League, scoring just seven league goals in 42 appearances.
Zaha – who has scored eight Premier League goals this season – believes that foreign additions can be a more attractive options for big-money deals, but has questioned Arsenal’s decision to choose Pepe over a player already proven in English football.
“You’re seeing a player come from Brazil or another league – they’re always going to attract more attention,” he continued.
“But, I just think if there’s a player that plays in the Premier League, you see him week in, week out. You know what he does.
“I feel like it’s a no-brainer. The other leagues are totally different.”