Wilfred Zaha came close to signing for Arsenal in the summer of 2019, but the Gunners instead turned their attention towards Nicolas Pepe. Pepe, who signed from Lille for a club record fee of 72£m has struggled to make an impact under Mikel Arteta.
Unai Emery revealed last year that he preferred to sign Wilfred Zaha ahead of Pepe due to his proven experience in the Premier League. Zaha has now revealed he held talks with Emery for a transfer, but the club chose Pepe over him.
Speaking on The Greatest Game with Jamie Carragher podcast, Zaha said “I had a conversation with the manager, actually. He was just like, ‘we don’t need to go through much’. He’s seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that. It was like, ‘yeah, we’d love to have you’. And I was just like, ‘I’d love to come.”
“The conversation was rather straightforward because I’ve played against him when he’s managed Arsenal, he’s seen what I can do, he’s seen my work rate, what I can add to the team.”
“Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose, and obviously they chose Pepe over me.”
Zaha said clubs lean towards signing overseas players when compared to proven Premier League talent. The Crystal Palace forward added “You’re seeing a player come from Brazil or another league, they’re always going to attract more attention.”
“But I just think if there’s a player who plays in the Premier League who you see week in, week out, and you know what he does. I feel like it’s a no-brainer.“
“The other leagues, I feel like they are totally different, in the Prem there are no easy games whatsoever. Every team is going to give you a run for your money. There’s no game where you’re going to go, ‘yeah, we’re going to win 5-0.”
“That’s my thought. I totally understand what you mean. I feel like when players come from abroad, I don’t know, they just have that edge with clubs, it’s just like ‘yeah, I may want him a bit more because he’s from there.”
Zaha revealed he supported Arsenal as a youngster, and only stopped following the Gunners after his move to Manchester United. He added “I supported Arsenal when I was growing up, my whole family supported Arsenal, actually. It’s only when I moved to Man United that I stopped supporting anyone in general.”
“I was still rooting for them, but when I went to Man United I feel like it’s a whole different mindset over there because you’re competing against these teams now, so you can’t be much of a fanboy like you were before, so that’s when my mentality changed.”