Tottenham Should Avoid Wilfried Zaha

Rear view of Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (Photo by Dave Howarth/PA Images via Getty Images)
Rear view of Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (Photo by Dave Howarth/PA Images via Getty Images) /

It is difficult to imagine where exactly Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha would fit into Tottenham’s plans, and yet rumors continue to persist that he is a target for the north London club.

Tottenham reportedly made an offer for the 24-year-old over the summer but eventually settled for Moussa Sissoko when Palace declined.

Like so many other rumors about Tottenham’s transfer targets, it refused to die even after the window closed in August. Now, as the end of the season approaches, it appears to be gathering fresh steam.

Fans, of course, should be wary of any rumor — particularly ones that make as little sense as Zaha to Spurs.

ESPN relates Palace chairman Steve Parish’s latest reaction to news that Tottenham are trailing his star winger:

Clearly Palace aren’t willing to even entertain offers for the Ivory Coast international’s services. More importantly though, why exactly would Spurs be so deadset on signing player like Zaha?

This is a question that was as valid last summer as it is today. Zaha is obviously important to Palace, where he began his football career at age 12. He was once promising enough for Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United to take a punt on as well. For Spurs though, it’s a struggle to see where he would fit.

Ostensibly, Zaha would have been brought in last summer as cover for Érik Lamela. They are broadly similar players. Both mend together midfield and attack — Lamela with his defensive contributions and playmaking, Zaha would his wide play and dribbling.

It’s conceivable that Mauricio Pochettino even saw Zaha as a more direct option — something Spurs occasionally needed on the pitch last term. That impression is buttressed by the club’s subsequent (expensive) acquisition of a similarly direct player in Sissoko on the last day of the transfer window.

More from Tottenham Transfer Rumours

Imagine, though, if Tottenham bagged Zaha instead. Would he have been any more of a success than a flop like Sissoko?

Chances are that he he would not. It’s not that Zaha — or even Sissoko — are bad players exactly. They have each enjoyed success in the past and should thrive in the future if given the chance. Rather, it’s that their styles of football do not match with Pochettino’s.

The pressing system employed by the Argentine requires extensive interplay among those players at the top of the formation, particularly in narrow areas. That demands a mix of savvy passing, close ball control and clever use of relatively limited space.

A byproduct of that intense, top-of-the-formation action is that opposing teams tend to sit back and deny space to Tottenham’s attack. They will rarely leave their third open to direct runners like Zaha or Sissoko.

Throwing in an attacking player who thrives almost exclusively in plenty of space tends to disjoint the club’s efforts in front of goal. It’s no coincidence that Sissoko often looks like an extra man whenever he’s fielded with the likes of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

Zaha’s talents fit a team like Palace, who Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis before him designed around exploiting wide areas on the break. Sissoko’s role at Newcastle was similar. These are players that better belong in sides who don’t expect to dominate the run of play.

This was essentially the same problem Tottenham had with Nacer Chadli. He was a one-gear player in a team that demanded at least five.

Next: Tottenham Must Stay Competitive, Demands Harry Kane

What’s more, Chadli could at least be relied on for goals. Neither Sissoko or Zaha have a reputation as goalscorers or particularly clever playmakers. Even when they thrive, they are rarely the biggest threat their side offers.

Don’t expect Tottenham to make further moves for Zaha then. They should learn their lesson from the Sissoko debacle and stick to finding players closer to the mold of Dele or Eriksen.