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Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Wilfried Zaha Is Solid Target If Theo Walcott Departs

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 03:  Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace in action during the npower Championship match between Crystal Palace and Peterborough United at Selhurst Park on March 3, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2012

The longer Theo Walcott goes without a contract extension, the more it looks as though he will depart Arsenal. One possible replacement for the lightning-quick winger the Gunners have been eyeing is Crystal Palace youngster Wilfried Zaha.

From Richard Arrowsmith of The Mirror:

Arsenal have sent scouts to watch Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha as they prepare for life without Theo Walcott, according to reports.

Former Arsenal assistant coach, Pat Rice, who still works for the club, was in the stands to watch the exciting 19-year-old prospect score twice in Palace's 4-3 win over Burnley at the weekend.

It is not the first time that the Gunners have sent scouts to watch the youngster who is rated in the £12million bracket, despite only having experience playing in the lower leagues.

According to Sky Sports, Walcott rejected the Gunners' latest extension offer and has been warned by the club that they won't break the bank to keep him. If he wants to stay, he'll need to be willing to accept a contract within Arsenal's budget allocations.

For a player who already wants to play centrally despite many questioning his ability to do so, asking for a realistic valuation of his abilities from a financial standpoint may be wishful thinking on Arsenal's part.

Zaha would certainly be a nice replacement and would give Arsene Wenger an intriguing winger to pair with fellow prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The 19-year-old is also thought to be desired by Manchester City and Liverpool, according to Wayne Veysey of, so Arsenal aren't alone in this courtship.

However, they should press hard to land him come January. Zaha is very dangerous in space and capable of beating defenders in one-on-one situations. He would certainly fit in well as a winger in Arsenal's system.

Though he hasn't played Premier League football as of yet, Zaha has made his mark in the Championship. In 39 appearances for Crystal Palace last year, he accumulated nine goals and seven assists, and he already has four goals and two assists this season after 11 games.

Obviously, the Gunners should try to keep Walcott. After another summer of losing top talent—this year, it was Robin van Persie and Alex Song—fans won't be pleased to see Walcott depart if the two sides can't work out a contract extension.

However, if he goes, Zaha should be on Arsenal's shopping list.

Heck, he probably should be a target regardless of what happens with Walcott. Zaha could be another young talent that Wenger molds into a top-class, European star.


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