All-knowing football deity, David Ornstein, says his understanding of the situation is that, had Arsenal achieved Champions League football, a deal for Wilfred Zaha would have been relatively straightforward for the Gunners.
As it is, another year in the Europa League wilderness, and with just £45million to spend on transfers, the aforementioned would seem to be nigh-on impossible.
And yet, every day we hear more and more about it, with leaks from both Arsenal and Zaha’s camp seemingly pushing to make the unattainable a reality, keeping the flirtation in the public eye and in the headlines.
But how? Why?
All jokes aside, Ornstein’s contacts at Arsenal are impeccable so, when he comes out with something, you can be sure it is correct. Clearly, from the Gunners’ point of view, landing Zaha would be a major box ticked in the summer transfer window.
Unai Emery revealed, as early as January, his desire for a wide midfielder, and Zaha would seem to fit the ball.
So, in making the club’s admiration and courtship of Zaha public, and the 26-year-old in turn leaking his desire to move away from Selhurst Park, it steps up the pressure on the Eagles.
Zaha’s camp also let it be known that the Ivorian was a boyhood fan of the Gunners, stoking the transfer flames still further.
But, if other reports are to be believed, Palace – having just lost Aaron Wan Bissaka to Manchester United – will not entertain the notion of losing Zaha for less than £80million, particularly as he has a 25 per cent sell-on clause in his contract. Such a price tag puts the midfield man far out of Arsenal’s reach, unless they can generate some serious revenue this summer. Or is something else going on?
The clearout of out-of-contract playing personnel will have shifted some wages from the books, and freed up and few million here and there, but it will take a lot more than that in order to bolster Arsenal’s existing budget, and still leave enough to complete any other signings the manager wants for next season.
In reality, having just lost Wan Bissaka, with £50million in the bank, and with Zaha tied down to a hefty contract, Palace have no real need to sell up. Every player has his price, of course, and investing in the squad to maintain Premier League status will be a top priority, but how would losing their star man help?
Something doesn’t add up here.
Almost all of the ingredients for a successful transfer are missing – not least the actual cash to make it happen – and yet, the leaks, rumours, and headlines persist.
Zaha, for all his attitudinal shortcomings, has had a run of impressive seasons for Palace.
In 2017/18, he scored nine and assisted three in the Premier League, and he followed that by scoring 10 and assisting five in 2018/19.
In a relegation-battling side like Palace, those are good returns and offer a tantalising glimpse of what he could offer in a much more forward-thinking side.
It’s a no-brainer for Arsenal. He would improve our attacking options, our ball carrying, and ease some of the reliance on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front.
How far Arsenal are willing to go to get their man is unknown, and there doesn’t appear to be a ‘plan B’ at this stage either.
So is the price being quoted by Palace a bluff or is Arsenal’s courtship of Zaha smoke and mirrors to distract from a more realistic target elsewhere, one that was deliberately not fed to Ornstein?
This is the first summer in which head of football Raul Sanllehi has been let loose to do his work so there’s telling whether these are his nefarious arts, or whether this is more lower-level agent flirtation, in an effort to cook up a good deal for his client (and himself).
As the transfer window officially opens tomorrow (July 1), things will start to become a little clearer but, for the nonce, all we have are some tempting scraps on which to feed.
History would suggest caution in this case, we are prone to flirtation before stepping meekly away when the time comes to act. With our new team in place, though, and with Edu set to join as director of football in the coming weeks, perhaps this is the genesis of something altogether new, with Zaha the first major scalp of a new era.
If nothing else, this story has legs yet.