Aston Villa encouraged to unleash star in new role as international boss details ‘important future’

Ciaran McCarthy
Nicolo Zaniolo, Ezri Konsa, Aston Villa, October 2023
Nicolo Zaniolo and Ezri Konsa warm up before Aston Villa game

Italy boss Luciano Spalletti has detailed how he feels Aston Villa midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo can have an “important future” as a centre-forward.

Zaniolo was a target of a number of Premier League outfits when Villa snapped him up in the summer. Since joining on loan with the club to obliged to buy him if certain conditions are met, he’s largely played as a left winger.

He’s spent the majority of his career playing on either wing or behind the striker as a no.10. He played twice for Italy in the recent international break, once on the right wing and once on the left.

However, Italy boss Spalletti has dropped a pearl of wisdom, suggesting the Aston Villa man could make it as a central striker.

“For me, Zaniolo can be a centre-forward. He could have an important future [as a striker],” he said, quoted by Tuttomercatoweb.

Given the suggestion from his international boss that Zaniolo might be a useful asset up top, Unai Emery could be encouraged to give it a go at Villa.

He deployed the Italian there in a single Europa Conference League game, yet Zaniolo neither scored nor assisted. In fact, he hasn’t done either in 14 games so far for the Villans.

However, if he’s continually deployed in a more direct forward role, his production could increase.

Villa’s starting striker Ollie Watkins is in blistering form, though, having scored six goals and provided five assists in the Premier League so far this season.

Zaniolo usurping him of his position seems unlikely, but he could play alongside him if Emery sees that as a viable option, or replace him as a substitute in games that he hasn’t started in to test out the role.

At the moment, Emery’s side are thriving as the fifth-placed side in the Premier League, so any drastic changes like the former are unlikely to be made right now.

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