By Anthony Onifade

19th Aug, 2023 | 7:10pm

Fan expectation will now ramp up pressure on Unai Emery at Aston Villa to deliver after Nicolo Zaniolo development

Aston Villa have completed the signing of Nicolo Zaniolo on loan from Galatasaray for the rest of the season, another marquee acquisition which now raises the expectation at Villa Park even further.

The Villans confirmed on their Twitter page (18 August), their brand new latest signing after already making promising statements in the market following deals for Youri Tielemans, Pau Torres and Moussa Diaby.

The 24-year-old is likely to be a replacement for Emi Buendia who sustained a serious knee injury in training before the campaign started, and is now out for as many as eight months, BBC Sport reported on 10 August.

Villa will pay a £4.25m loan fee for the Italian international and there is a “conditional compulsory purchase option” in the deal which means if certain criteria are hit, they will pay £19.2m plus £13.2m in possible add-ons to make Zaniolo’s move permanent [BBC Sport, 18 August].

The Villans have been in desperate need of a rebuild this summer, following the lofty heights Emery took them to last season, finishing in a Europa Conference League place after winning 15 of his 25 matches in charge following his appointment in November, despite possessing a depleted attacking weaponry.

In order for Aston Villa to take the next step for the 23/24 campaign, the club needed to show their ambition in the transfer market, filling in gaps in Emery’s squad with the necessary quality required to fire on all cylinders and that has been impressively shown following their latest additions.

For example, a regular feature for Belgium on the international stage, picking up 60 caps since his debut in 2016, Tielemans has long been considered one of the most innovative and progressive midfielders in the Premier League.

According to FBRef, Tielemans sat in the 86th percentile for progressive passes made by midfielders last season, averaging 6.95 per 90 minutes. This equated to a total of 181 progressive passes across the season, which was 33 more than Douglas Luiz, who topped the charts for Villa.

The same increase in quality can be shown through Spanish international Torres, too.

Torres averaged 4.1 clearances, 1.7 aerial wins and 1.3 tackles per game last season in La Liga [WhoScored] proving a real rock at the heart of Villarreal’s defence, but he equally has an eye on making a positive impact driving forward from deep which Emery is trying to incorporate in the West Midlands.

The 26-year-old ranked in the 99th percentile for progressive carries and the 97th percentile for successful take-ons, showcasing his incredible class and qualities when playing out of the back, or even possessing the ability to evade high pressure from onrushing attackers.

Having been crowned winner of the Europa League in 2020/21, Torres will additionally know what it takes to compete and be successful on the bigger stage – which is what Aston Villa will be up against next season in the Europa Conference League – so he could help to create the winning mentality needed to gain results over European opponents.

All of their additions are players of real quality and of a “world-class” standing and are amongst the best in their position for what they offer handing Emery the tools to potentially go that one step further and potentially upset the Premier League’s Top Six’ order.

However, such lofty ambitions won’t be easy, even if the Aston Villa fans are demanding such. While the Villans have raised their ceiling with these new additions, their rivals in the Premier League have also boosted their own squads making the ambition to finish amongst the elite in the division, even more difficult.

Also, Moussa Diaby and Zaniolo also hold European and international pedigree having starred for their clubs and countries at the elite level, with certainly points out Emery’s need for experienced and elite individuals.

The former Villarreal boss is certainly a man on a mission, and his impressive new signings certainly point to that fact but also increases the pressure on him to deliver with Aston Villa facing new territory this season, having to now juggle European football along with their domestic exploits.

Emery has tasted this pressure before, with Villarreal and Sevilla over the past few campaigns causing serious stirs amongst La Liga’s elite clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid while tasting unprecedented success with four European cup wins in his CV.

But, there is a case to argue that the pressure in England is just as rampant as that in Spain and the money the West Midlands outfit have spent already not only raises the expectation within the neutrals but more crucially, the expectations within the club.

The Spaniard certainly thrives under such weight of expectation, but that experience has certainly got to be translated down to the players at his disposal, especially those who have never played under such lofty conditions.

Regardless, the Villa Park faithful will be expecting an even bigger achievement both at domestic and European level, which certainly now hypes up the pressure on Emery potentially suggesting that this job may well be his biggest and most pivotal in his career yet.

In other Aston Villa news, one player Unai Emery loves also faces arguably the biggest test of his career at Villa Park following a dreadful new development.