By Anthony Onifade

2nd Oct, 2023 | 3:10pm

Unai Emery may look to end Nicolo Zaniolo Aston Villa loan agreement after another woeful performance v Brighton

Aston Villa made it three Premier League wins in a row after a clinical display against Brighton on Saturday in a 6-1 win but Unai Emery will have grave concerns over Nicolo Zaniolo’s struggles so far.

Ollie Watkins scored his second hat-trick of the season as Aston Villa delivered a ruthless display to thrash the high-flying Seagulls on Saturday (30 September) – a win which took them to within three points off Manchester City at the league summit, sitting in fifth.

Watkins, who also scored three against Hibernian in Europa Conference League qualifying, is the first Villa player to net more than one hat-trick in a season since Andy Gray in 1976-77.

A Pervis Estupinan own-goal and late efforts from Jacob Ramsey and Douglas Luiz were the icing on the cake for Villa, who move level on points with their opponents in the English top flight.

After the match, Emery admitted that his team could still improve after the whopping result but one man in particular who is currently leaving plenty to be desired after his much-anticipated loan transfer over the summer is Zaniolo.

It’s safe to say the Italian international hasn’t particularly backed up the fan’s excitement since his move from Galatasaray in Turkey, showcasing another woeful display at the weekend which could force Emery into an unexpected decision over his long-term future at Villa Park.

His performance against the Seagulls was yet another unconvincing and hapless one adding to a handful of worrying showings in his new surroundings.

One of his worst came in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace on 16 September where he won just four of his 12 total duels, barely touched the ball with just 37 touches to his name and 14/18 out of successful passes, completed just one of his four dribbles at a 25% success rate while also losing possession of the ball 15 times [SofaScore].

Against Brighton on Saturday, it was a similar trend barely touching the ball for his team with 20 touches, completing just three of his passes and failing to complete any of his four dribbles, won one of his 13 ground duels at a dreadful rate of 7%, lost possession of the ball eleven times and registered zero key passes also giving away four fouls [SofaScore] in a lifeless performance.

Given he only just signed on the dotted line at Villa Park, Zaniolo still has a lot of acclimatising to do to get to grips with life in the West Midlands.

But with Emery desperate to get points on the board, and Aston Villa favourite Jacob Ramsey making a goalscoring appearance in his return to full fitness, the omens aren’t looking good Zaniolo over his first-team opportunities under Emery.

Villa fans should not be surprised if his loan transfer agreement is terminated in January should these hapless performances continue.

In other Aston Villa news, an Aston Villa Women defender has been handed a club honour following the exit of one player.