By James Murray

21st Sep, 2023 | 10:10am

Nicolo Zaniolo must improve after shocker for Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

Nicolo Zaniolo must improve for Aston Villa after his disappointing performance against Crystal Palace on Saturday (16 September).

The Italian international made his first start for Villa in their 3-1 victory over the Eagles, but he was hauled off after just 57 minutes.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder, who joined the club on loan from Galatasaray over the summer, has to perform better if he is to keep his place in the starting lineup.

The Villans drafted in Zaniolo as they looked to replace Emi Buendia, who was ruled out for up to eight months with a knee injury in August.

They agreed a deal with the Turkish side to take him on loan with an option-to-buy clause worth £23.1million included in the transfer.

That came after the 6’3″ midfielder had only signed with the Super Liga outfit in February from Roma, where he had previously been highly regarded.

He scored five goals in 12 matches during his brief spell with Galatasaray before Villa director Monchi, who signed him previously in the Italian capital, made the move to bring him to Birmingham.

Zaniolo averaged a goal every 70 minutes for a conversion rate of 23 per cent in Turkey, having taken 2.2 shots a game and registering one shot on target [SofaScore].

That came despite him only averaging 20.6 touches per outing as he quickly made an impression and proved his quality in Istanbul.

The Italian was successful with 41 per cent of the dribbles he attempted and won 31 per cent of his duels, while he lost possession just seven times and made 0.5 tackles.

Those figures dropped dramatically in his first start for Villa, though, despite having 37 touches in his 57 minutes on the field.

His side had just gone 1-0 down before he was replaced on the left-hand side of the attack by Leon Bailey, who scored the third goal in the 3-1 win to show that they were better without him.

The attacking midfielder failed to find a teammate with his one cross and he also didn’t have a shot on target, registering just one blocked effort.

He was also only successful with one of his four dribbles and won just three of the 11 duels he was involved in on the ground.

The Italian also lost possession on 15 occasions for his side, while he was dribbled past once as he made no successful tackles and also picked up a yellow card during his time on the pitch.

It’s still early days for Zaniolo at Villa Park, but Unai Emery has high expectations and the midfielder will have to perform much better if he wants to nail down a regular place in the team this season and earn a permanent deal at the club.

In other Aston Villa news, a pundit has been blown away by one player’s development.