Wilfried Zaha has had enough, after being on the end of another bad tackle.
The Crystal Palace star was the subject of challenge from Huddersfield’s Mathias Jorgensen last weekend and that brought a strong outburst from the Ivory Coast international.
When asked about the incident, Zaha said: “I feel like I’d have to get my leg broken for anyone to get a red card”.
The stats certainly suggest Zaha is a target of opposing teams. This is no surprise given he is widely regarded as Palace’s biggest attacking threat.
Last season, no player who played multiple Premier League games was fouled more often than the Palace ace. Opposing teams fouled the former Manchester United man 2.6 times per game.
It’s early days in 2018/19 but Zaha is already towards the top of that list again. He’s been fouled 2.75 times per game thus far, with only Rajiv van la Parra, James Maddison and Eden Hazard fouled more often.
It is interesting to see Hazard, a fellow expert dribbler, on that list. He hit the headlines for similar reasons in 2014/15, with his then-manager Jose Mourinho calling for more protection for his Belgian star.
Last season brought another high-profile example of a call for referees to clamp down on fouls with Pep Guardiola livid after Leroy Sane was on the wrong end of a potential ‘leg-breaker’ against Cardiff.
There is little evidence to suggest refs took much notice of Mourinho’s comments in the games that followed, although yellow cards given to City opponents did rise in the run of domestic fixtures which followed Guardiola’s comment. The data sample is really too small to be of much relevance, however.
What certainly isn’t in dispute is that prolific dribblers like Zaha are among the most-fouled players. Neither can it be denied that Hazard’s foulers have been punished more – six of the 15 fouls he has received have resulted in yellow cards (40%). Only 3 off the 11 on Zaha have (27%), although clearly that doesn’t take into account the severity of the foul – something Zaha’s comment appear to have been made with regard to.
However, there is another reason Zaha may also be ‘a target’, namely his response to being fouled.
Both against Huddersfield and Watford, Zaha followed being fouled badly by quickly getting himself booked, on both occasions clearly frustrated by the treatment he had just received.
There’s also the fact that he’s been booked for simulation four times in the last three seasons which won’t be helping his standing with referees.
While Zaha can rightly suggest he could do with more protection from the officials, there also appear things he can do to help alleviate the problem.