Mikel Arteta responds to Wilfried Zaha's Arsenal transfer comments

Mikel Arteta has lauded Wilfried Zaha as an ‘exceptional’ player in response to the Crystal Palace star’s recent revelation that he very nearly joined Arsenal when Unai Emery was in charge.

The Ivory Coast international held talks with Arsenal in the summer of 2019 but the club opted to sign Nicolas Pepe in a club-record £72million deal from Lille instead.

Pepe has struggled to live up that price tag while Zaha has continued to excel, with the Palace winger suggesting it was a ‘no-brainer’ for the Gunners to sign him over his Ivorian teammate.

While Arteta was keen to avoid reigniting speculation linking Arsenal with Zaha, he did concede that the winger – who takes on the Gunners on Thursday – is an excellent player.

Asked about Zaha’s comments, Arteta replied: ‘Undoubtedly he’s a player who has done exceptionally well in the Premier League.

‘He has created a big name because what he’s been able to do, sometimes on his own with some individual actions, is what people highlight most of the time.

‘He is a player who plays for Palace at the moment, and that’s it.’

After a difficult period of form leading up to Christmas, Arsenal have now won four games on the bounce but Arteta is wary of the threat Palace pose when they face off at the Emirates.

He continued: ‘As I said before, they don’t need much, they have very specific players in positions that reinforces their way of playing.

‘Roy Hodgson always makes things difficult and they lost some games, some undeserved and some with a big margin like against Liverpool. But for me it’s not a real consequence of what they are as a team.

‘Listen, every game in the Premier League is tough. It will be tough against them when a team is in the moment that they are in because we weren’t that far away a few weeks ago.

‘I know what the spirit is in that dressing room and the willingness to put things right is, so we have to be there and be really, really ready to go and win that match again.’

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