Paul Merson believes Arsenal should try to sign Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha to replace record holder Nicolas Pepe this summer.
Gunners legend Merson has urged his former club to finally land the Ivory Coast international at the end of the season as he believes the £72m flop Pepe will soon be on the doorstep at the Emirates.
Zaha was Arsenal’s target in 2019, but the club had a £40million offer rejected by the Eagles – which later saw them pay a club-record fee to sign Pepe from French champions Lille.
The 29-year-old striker made 420 appearances in all competitions for boyhood club Crystal Palace – over two spells separated by an ill-fated move to Manchester United – with 78 goals and 73 assists.
Merson now claims Mikel Arteta’s side should make their last attempt to sign him when the transfer window reopens.
“Arsenal should replace Wilfried Zaha and try to sign him from Crystal Palace this summer,” the 54-year-old said in his column for the Daily Star.
“They wanted it before and missed it. But Zaha wanted to join them and he won’t stay at Palace forever.
“I think he would have made a difference for Arsenal. He is better than Nicolas Pepe. He attracts players to him and makes things happen.
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“Now is the right time to buy it. You’ll get him a little cheaper and he’s a better player now than he was when they tried before. I think Pepe is going there this summer if they can find a buyer, and sooner or later they will try Gabriel Martinelli up front.
“So I really think there is room for another winger like Zaha in the squad, and I think he would have plenty of minutes.”
Under contract with Palace until 2023, Zaha turns 30 in November but Merson believes he still has plenty to offer in the English top flight.
“I think Zaha is making much better decisions these days,” the former Gunner said. “He engages the players and the way Arsenal play, he would free up space for others.
“He would find it easier at Arsenal than at Palace because there are teams that pass him all the time because he is the danger man.
“He would be quite shocked how easily he would find him at Arsenal, how much space he would get because teams couldn’t double up on him there.
“They are going to need another winger if they make the top four. They are going to play a lot of games next season if they come back to Europe.
“It means a bigger team, and I like Zaha, I think he would fit in well there. People say he doesn’t score or assist enough. But I think he does. a lot of work that coaches appreciate more than a fan.
“These days, with all these stats we have, an assist could be giving the ball to someone who smashes it in the top corner from 35 yards out.”
“Zaha always makes the pass before the final pass for a goal. He is always involved. It’s going under the radar these days in my opinion.
“I think he will eventually succeed. If he still has the ambition to play at the highest level, I think there is a big club waiting for him. Why couldn’t it be Arsenal?
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