Wilfried Zaha: Patrick Vieira’s demands have made me a better player for Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha believes that Patrick Vieira’s high expectations have improved him as a player.

Zaha, who has played every minute of the games that he has started this season, has scored four goals and contributed one assist in 12 Premier League games.

The Ivorian has made the most Premier League appearances for the South Londoners and reached 50 top-flight goals for the Eagles when he scored in the 2-0 away win against Manchester City.

Speaking on his initial impressions when the French World Cup winner first walked into the Crystal Palace dressing room, Zaha told PLP: “It’s a bit surreal when a legendary player becomes your manager – there is so much you can take from him.

“It’s different when you actually see them play because you buy into what they say more because they understand the game and have done it before. He’s got a lot of ideas, and there are a lot of intricate details. But if you just buy into it, as everyone has, you can see that it makes a massive difference.

“The whole team are willing to learn new things. That’s why it’s changed so quickly because everyone is willing to change and understand the new techniques and the new things that we can be doing to improve our game.

“We’re not just that counter-attack team anymore – we actually keep possession. Now, when we go forward, if we do counter-attack, it’s not just one or two players versus four defenders. It makes such a difference when there is Conor, there’s Christian, or there’s Jordan – there are more players going up top with you.

“The one good attribute that Conor does have is that he goes back and forward, and he will constantly do it. It’s a help all the time, and it just makes a massive difference in the game when you have that someone to pass to.”

Zaha also believes that he has improved as a player in the short space of time he has worked under the former Arsenal captain, adding: “I feel the pressure to do more and to do better because he expects more from me.

“I perform better under pressure. If I’m just taking it easy, then things start to go a bit pear-shaped because I don’t put that pressure on myself to perform better.

“Every day, he is demanding more and more from me, and sometimes it’s annoying, but he just wants the best for me, so I just try to do my best.”

Zaha, 29, is one of the more experienced players in Palace’s young squad, with the likes of 19-year-old Michael Olise, 23-year-old Eberechi Eze, 22-year-old Tyrick Mitchell, and 21-year-old Marc Guehi, all core members of the first-team squad.

“It’s enjoyable because you’re watching them grow,” said Zaha of Palace’s fledgling youngsters.

“When I look at them, it’s just like that used to be me.

“It’s just nice seeing them grow and just grow into the players that they are going to be. Some of them are ridiculously talented, and I just can’t wait to see the final product. I’m glad I can be around it.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s home clash against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, with the former Liverpool captain taking charge of his second game following a 2-0 win against Brighton, Zaha added: “A new manager – they’re all going to be pushing to impress.

“We have got to expect a first half of just energy, and obviously he’s going to come in with new ideas, so we just have to ride that wave and see the game through because they’re going to want to win for the manager – it’s going to be difficult.”




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