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Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce calls for greater protection for Wilfried Zaha


Wilfried Zaha, pictured left, has been one of Palace's most impressive players this season

Wilfried Zaha, pictured left, has been one of Palace's most impressive players this season

Wilfried Zaha, pictured left, has been one of Palace's most impressive players this season

Sam Allardyce has demanded greater protection for Wilfried Zaha after accusing the Crystal Palace winger's opponents of targeting him.

The manager is concerned that Zaha - perhaps Palace's finest player this season - is being distracted by the challenges made on him.

Allardyce says he was warned that was the case by the club's chairman Steve Parish upon his appointment to succeed Alan Pardew in December, but has only discovered the extent of it during the five months since.

He believes the 24-year-old is capable of displaying even greater ability, but will continue to be undermined until he is given the protection he requires.

Zaha, incidentally, was the most-fouled player on the pitch during Saturday's 5-0 defeat at Manchester City, where he was targeted four times.

"Often those fouls are ignored and they frustrate Wilfried and then he loses control sometimes, which is a part of our job to make sure he gets more determined," said Allardyce.

"One, to prove the referee wrong, and two, to weaken the opposition's defence by continuing to play as well as he's playing.

"When they're fouling him as constantly as they are it's because he's playing well. And when he plays well he attracts attention, and when he attracts that attention, even with two men marking him, they can't stop him. And the only way they can stop him is fouling him.

"I was told by the chairman it was happening before I got here and obviously you take it or leave it in terms of, 'I'll find out for myself'. But I've found it to be the same, and because he's such an outstandingly damaging player for the opposition he gets fouled more.

"He actually gets fouled more than the rest of the team put together most of the time."

Allardyce's comments echo concerns earlier in the campaign about the physicality with which Manchester United played in their attempts to contain Chelsea's Eden Hazard in March's FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Zaha's attitude has also been questioned in the past after he struggled during his short spell at United and while on loan at Cardiff before his return to Palace in 2014.

While those concerns no longer exist, Allardyce stressed it is his responsibility to remain focused and said: "We're supposed to be improving the game for our more skilful players, where we've rightly outlawed tackling from behind and so on, but persistent fouling seems to be something you can get away with.

"You can tug somebody and get booked straight away, but you persistently foul somebody and the referee continues to let that go. For me, Wilfried needs more protection, so he can show his abilities more.

"I always say to a player who gets a yellow card, 'Be careful. Be very, very careful now. You can't afford another one of those tackles or you're off'. But if that doesn't happen then the player carries on fouling our player.

"It's up to the referee to make that decision but I constantly see - and I share - Wilf's frustration. But I would like Wilf to control himself more and not lose control of his game, and keep going at them and keep trying to do the right thing."