This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Before a ball had been kicked at Vicarage Road in Saturday’s meeting between Crystal Palace and Watford, we outlined that Wilfried Zaha must be careful.
The Hornets are notorious for trying to wind the Ivorian up, with Etienne Capoue raking his studs down the forward’s Achilles in last season’s Premier League fixture between the two sides at Vicarage Road, an incident that affected Zaha according to Roy Hodgson.
Additionally, Watford’s mascot – Harry the Hornet – also dived in front of the former Manchester United man in an attempt to mock him, an act described as disgraceful by Hodgson.
On Saturday, these antics were present again as Capoue tried his best to rile Zaha up once more, while there were also some dark arts on show from Christian Kabasele who managed to get the Ivorian booked despite appearing to trip him up.
This is what zaha was booked for… pic.twitter.com/hOoGfRuAKd
— Tom 🦅 (@cpfcTom_) December 7, 2019
Capoue in particular appeared to stamp on the Palace No.11’s hand during a three-on-one combat, with a number of Watford players trampling around Zaha while he was on the floor which sparked a reaction from the former Cardiff loanee.
🔘 stamped on
…and Martin Atkinson awarded a free kick to Watford. 🙄🤬 pic.twitter.com/WiilY5k9Cz
— Five Year Plan 🦅 (@FYPFanzine) December 9, 2019
While the Eagles talisman remained on the pitch throughout the 90 minutes and managed to avoid a red card, he was perhaps slightly lucky following the Kabasele incident after doing something that got him sent off in a fixture against Southampton last season – a moment that he said he would learn from, but clearly hasn’t.
Zaha was seen sarcastically applauding Martin Atkinson’s decision to book him after Kabasele tripped him, and while the decision was dubious – especially as Atkinson was jogging away with his back turned – the referee very easily could’ve sent the 27-year-old off just like Andre Marriner did at St Mary’s last term, again for sarcastic clapping, after James Ward-Prowse successfully pushed the Palace man’s buttons.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 8, 2019
Admittedly, it must be frustrating when opposition players actively target you, whether it be by force or through wind-up antics.
However, it comes as part and parcel of being a tricky winger – Eden Hazard received more fouls between now and Zaha’s Premier League debut having been felled 521 times, and one can’t recall the Belgian ever reacting or being wound up.
At 27, and with aspirations of playing in the Champions League, Zaha can’t allow himself to be this easy to wind up.