Former Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway has expressed his shock at the decision of the North London giants to sign Nicolas Pepe over Wilfried Zaha, believing that a mistake had been made.
Arsenal were in the hunt to sign the Crystal Palace star but had a £40 million ($50m) offer rejected by the Eagles. The Gunners then moved on to secure the services of the Lille forward instead to the chagrin of Holloway who once managed Zaha at Palace.
“I am very surprised that Arsenal rate Nicolas Pepe better than Wilfried Zaha,” Holloway told Goal. “I certainly don’t. I would be very sad if I don’t ever see Wilfried Zaha playing in the Champions League.
“I feel he is good enough for anyone in the world, including the teams that get there. At the moment Everton can’t get to the Champions League. There is no wrong way to go about getting a move these days. I thought he had his best season ever last year.
“He is starting to add the end product to his performances. He has been handled fantastically well by [Crystal Palace manager and assistant] Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington. The experience that those two have got, they were smart enough to move him from one of the wide areas to be centre forward.
“If you leave him on his own with your last man when you are dominating the ball then you can be in trouble if Palace win it back. So it is all about end product with him, I always think ‘come on son, you can do that’. I see maturity in his play now.
“I believe at the very, very top level, if he plays with a team that can keep the ball away from you, who also win it back very quickly and dominate a game [he’ll do well]. If you give him the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box then he can win games, even for Manchester City.
“He would have to learn what the likes of Pep Guardiola want but I think he would [do well at the top level]. He is good enough for any team in the Premier League now. I may be biased because I have seen him close at hand.
“He is one I would pay to watch. He is trying to shine and I have all the time in the world for him.”
Holloway also recalled the moment he first set eyes on Zaha during his time at Palace and how when he was told about the former Manchester United winger’s talents, he wasn’t sure he’d be as good as he is.
“The first time I heard about Wilf was when I got the job,” Holloway added. “I stayed down near Palace with my wife at one of the director’s houses. He was telling me: ‘Have you seen Wilf? He is brilliant’. I am sat at Palace having just managed Blackpool in the Premier League.”