Top 10 Premier League stars of 2018: Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha inspired Crystal Palace's survival last season

ZAHA
Image: Wilfried Zaha is 10th in our countdown

Our countdown of the top 10 Premier League stars of 2018 begins with Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha.

The Eagles looked doomed to relegation in the first half of last season but their survival and eventual 11th-placed finish owed a lot to the outstanding performances of the talismanic Zaha.

The Ivorian was hailed as one of the best Premier League players outside of the big six, attracting reported interest from a number of top clubs, but in August he committed his future to Palace with a new long-term contract.

What do the stats say?

Zaha's total of eight goals and three assists in 2018 may not seem especially high but his importance to Palace cannot be understated. It is no coincidence that they lost all 10 of the Premier League games he missed last season - including four between February and March.

Wilfried Zaha's 2018 PL stats

  • 28 appearances
  • 8 goals
  • 93 successful dribbles
  • 77 fouls won

His return to the side coincided with a run of only one defeat from eight games as he helped to secure their survival in style. Zaha scored five goals in that period and picked up where he left off at the start of this season, with three in his first four appearances of 2018/19.

He has not found the net since then, but the statistics highlight just how much of a handful he is for opposition defenders. In 2018, only Eden Hazard has completed more dribbles and won more fouls. Even some of the toughest of Premier League defenders have found that the only way to stop him is to bring him down.

What were his highlights?

It is hard to look past the 3-2 win over Palace's rivals Brighton in April.

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Zaha has a habit of punishing Brighton - he famously fired Palace past the Seagulls in the 2012/13 Championship play-offs - and his goals proved decisive again last season.

Wilfried Zaha has scored in all three of Crystal Palace's away league games
Image: Wilfried Zaha is rated as one of the best players outside the big six

Zaha scored his first from close range after Luka Milivojevic's shot was saved and grabbed his second when he headed home a cross from the same player soon afterwards.

The 26-year-old shone again in the 5-0 win over Leicester which all but confirmed their survival in April, opening the scoring when he thumped a James McArthur backheel into the net before setting him his team-mate to double Palace's advantage.

In September, Zaha scored a stunning goal to clinch a 1-0 win over Huddersfield. Picking up the ball in the midfield, he drove through a crowd of blue and white shirts on the left flank before cutting inside and curling a sublime finish into the corner.

What's the pundit verdict?

"He always impresses me because he's a skilful player," says Charlie Nicholas. "I like that and I would always promote those players who get people off their seats.

Sure, he can be inconsistent and he can be frustrating. But I love players who are prepared to take people on and commit.
Charlie Nicholas on Wilfried Zaha

"The other thing about Zaha that I really like is that even if he is having a bad game, he doesn't stop trying things. He will keep at it and keep at it and keep at it. He will keep asking the same questions.

"He doesn't score enough goals and doesn't always create enough, so there are some issues there that stop him from being one of the very top players. But I would say he is one of the Premier League's most exciting players to watch."

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