By Anthony Onifade

12th Nov, 2023 | 8:10pm

Aston Villa attacker Nicolo Zaniolo receives surprise international call-up for Italy, Luciano Spalletti has surely lost the plot

Italy manager Luciano Spalletti has surely lost the plot handing Nicolo Zaniolo another surprise call-up to the squad after his dreadful Aston Villa form and behind-scenes controversy hanging over his head.

Signed on loan from Galatasaray during the summer, after injuries to both Ramsey and Emilian Buendia, the Italian international was supposed to provide Aston Villa with the cutting-edge influence in attack they needed to progress even further this season.

While the Villans are on track to do so, Zaniolo has proven rather anonymous so far in his Villa career, with the likes of John McGinn, Moussa Diaby and Ollie Watkins doing most of the dirty work.

In his nine Premier League games so far this season, he’s yet to register a single goal or an assist, has recorded just 0.7 key passes per game, registered zero big chances created and his shots on target per game are pretty woeful with just 0.4 [SofaScore].

His period in an Aston Villa shirt was made all the more concerning when he was forced to withdraw from the Azzurri training camp in Coverciano last month after police questioned him and Sandro Tonali regarding the recent Serie A betting scandal.

The Aston Villa forward has been questioned by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office and has continued playing football regularly while his counterpart Tonali is banned from all footballing activities for 18 months.

It seems rather controversial for Spalletii to call up the former Roma man, not just for the betting scandal he is embroiled in right now but also his woeful performances for Aston Villa in recent weeks.

The 3-1 win over Luton Town further reflected just how much Zaniolo is struggling to acclimatise himself despite Aston Villa playing with such superb confidence right now.

A booking in the 28th minute was as exciting as it got for the attacker, who touched the ball 28 times but only completed six total passes in the end [Sofascore].

Playing on the left-hand side, creativity is key which Ramsey showed several times last season but Zaniolo has had none of that, attempting two crosses which both failed, as well as completing 0% of his attempted dribbles.

Losing possession eight times in 45 minutes told the full story, with the Italian only winning three of his 11 duels both on the ground and in the air.

Leon Bailey came on and showed him how it was done in the end, picking up an assist as well as creating a big chance with his speed a real danger [Sofascore].

Despite being under the spotlight for his betting activities back in Italy at the moment, Emery still surprisingly picks him but the Italian still fails to repay that faith and was woeful again against Nottingham Forest last weekend (5 November).

In his 45 minutes on the pitch in Nottingham, he had just 23 touches of the ball, recorded a pass accuracy of 78 per cent from the nine passes he played and lost possession 12 times [SofaScore].

The attacker had one shot on target, but he failed to find a teammate with the one cross he played into the box as he looked to provide creativity from the left-hand side.

The Italian was deservedly axed from the start in their 2-1 win over AZ Alkmaar on Thursday (9 November) but is still called up for his country which is certainly baffling.

He could have certainly done with more practice and tactical work during the two-week break at Bodymoor Heath to ensure he proves himself when the Premier League resumes.

In other Aston Villa news, a senior man may have quit before he was pushed out of Villa Park by Monchi.