Alan Shearer slams Aston Villa attacker for costly defensive blunder

Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Aston Villa's quest for Champions League football suffered a major setback at the Etihad Stadium, where a 4-1 demolition by Manchester City ruthlessly exposed defensive vulnerabilities.

At the heart of the defeat was a shocking moment of inattention from on-loan forward Nicolo Zaniolo, drawing fierce criticism from Premier League legend Alan Shearer.

With the score delicately poised at 1-1, Phil Foden stepped up to take a free-kick just before halftime. Inexplicably, Zaniolo, positioned in Villa's defensive wall, turned his back as the ball whizzed past him and into the net.

The goal was a turning point, putting City 2-1 up and deflating Aston Villa's spirits. Shearer, renowned for his no-nonsense punditry, pulled no punches on BBC's Match of the Day:

"Oh goodness me. Nicolo Zaniolo, what on earth are you doing? The point in the wall is to take the hit. He’s cost his team the goal. No wonder he [Emery] is raging. I’d love to know what he said at half-time."

Nicolo Zaniolo
Manchester City v Aston Villa - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

The incident typifies Zaniolo's disappointing spell at Villa Park. Since his loan move from Galatasaray, the 24-year-old Italian has struggled, netting just twice in 22 Premier League appearances. His lack of firepower has reportedly ended Villa's hopes of making his move permanent, with Fiorentina now rumoured to be keen on securing his services.

While Zaniolo's blunder grabbed headlines, Aston Villa remain in the hunt for a top-four finish. Yet, the two-point cushion over Tottenham Hotspur feels increasingly fragile. Manchester City, meanwhile, kept the pressure on leaders Arsenal and Liverpool with a clinical display. Foden's hat-trick was the star turn, the free-kick strike a bitter reminder of how easily Villa's ambitions could crumble.

As the fight for Champions League qualification heats up, Unai Emery will demand unwavering concentration from his players. Defensive lapses like Zaniolo's cannot be repeated if Villa wants to rub shoulders with Europe's elite.

For the Italian forward, the incident could prove a defining moment – either a wake-up call to rediscover his best form or another nail in the coffin of his Premier League adventure.

With every match now taking on cup-final intensity, Villa's European dreams hang in the balance. They need every player performing consistently, demonstrating the mental fortitude required for the relentless battle ahead.

The Etihad drubbing served as a harsh lesson; if Villa cannot tighten up at the back, their Champions League hopes may quickly fade from tantalising possibility to painful disappointment.