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Arsenal step up interest in Palace prospect Zaha

Tuesday, 9 October 2012 - 11:20am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Arsene Wenger has asked Pat Rice, his former assistant manager and trusted aide, to personally scout Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

Arsene Wenger has asked Pat Rice, his former assistant manager and trusted aide, to personally scout Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

Rice, who was Wenger's assistant for 16 seasons before his retirement this year, has already watched Zaha several times this season and was at Selhurst Park on Saturday when he scored twice in the 4-3 win over Burnley.

It was the second game in succession that Zaha has delivered a match-winning performance, with the 19 year-old also scoring twice in Palace's 2-1 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers last Tuesday.

Zaha is also firmly on the radar of both Newcastle United and Liverpool but Crystal Palace did turn down an offer from at least one Premier League club earlier this year for the England Under-21 international.

Arsenal have not made a bid or any formal inquiry for Zaha at this stage and are already well stocked with wingers, but Theo Walcott's future remains uncertain as he continues to stall on the offer of a new contract. Zaha would also be regarded as a signing for the future and could potentially play in any of the attacking positions in Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 formation.

Palace co-chairman Steve Parish has previously admitted that every player has their price, but has also been adamant that he would only sell a young talent like Zaha at a fee that adequately reflects his potential. With Palace also having begun the season so strongly, there would also be an added incentive to keep Zaha in January if they are still in contention for promotion to the Premier League.

"He is certainly a young man who has got huge potential and hopefully he can fulfil that," said Dougie Freedman, the Palace manager. "I think this is the place to fulfil it because he is expressing his talent week in, week out in front of a very good crowd." Zaha was on the standby list for Team GB's Olympic squad and is in Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad for their European Championship qualifier against Serbia at Carrow Road on Friday.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were given a triple boost last night by the performances of Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong in the reserve team's 2-0 win over Reading at Barnet's Underhill Stadium.

Sagna was playing for the first time since he broke his leg against Norwich in May - the second fibula fracture that he has suffered in the space of just a year - and stayed on for 61 minutes.

Wilshere and Frimpong also continued their comebacks after playing 63 and 70 minutes respectively in an Under-21 match against West Bromwich Albion last week. Frimpong completed the game last night while Wilshere impressed greatly with his energy during the 74 minutes he played. One especially delightful backheel to Thomas Eisfeld also seemed to suggest that he has lost none of his confidence during more than a year on the sidelines.

"Jack is doing extremely well, the situation looks very good," said Wenger. "We have to be cautious, not crazy, because of his talent you are always pushed in a situation where you would like to rush him back, and we have to resist that."

Another positive last night was the performance of Serge Gnabry, a 17 year-old winger in the mould of Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. With Wenger watching, Gnabry opened the scoring in the 42nd minute following a move that involved both Wilshere and Frimpong. Arsenal's second goal was scored in the 59th minute by Chuba Akpom.

While Wilshire, and possibly Sagna will be targeting the match in the Capital One Cup against Reading on Oct 30, Frimpong could step up his return to fitness by making a return to Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan.

Wolves manager Stale Solbakken is keen to recruit the midfielder to help ease an injury crisis at the Championship club. Frimpong has not played a Premier League game since Wolves' win over Queens Park Rangers in February when he suffered a cruciate ligament injury during his loan spell.

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