I’m reluctant to say it, but Max Aarons will soon be shooting off to bigger and better. How well he has done in just shy of two seasons in the first team?
14th August 2018: the day the club’s academy staff had been waiting for, to see how one of their star talents would perform in the first-team for the first time (against Stevenage in the Carabao Cup). This star talent – like Jamal Lewis the year before – had been earmarked by Daniel Farke as soon as he had started looking at the new academy he had to work with.
Aarons was solid and unfazed playing at left-back, keeping the play simple and efficient. I was at the game and while I thought he played well and looked a good player, I didn’t foresee his upcoming meteoric rise.
With Felix Passlack and Ben Marshall seen as the right-back options for that season, Aarons did not feature in the next three league games. But the former Luton graduate took his next opportunity in the Carabao Cup game with a brilliant display, becoming the first Norwich City player born this millennium to score in the first-team, as City comfortably beat then Premier League Cardiff 3-1.
Five days later, Farke pulled a huge surprise by starting the full-back for his league debut in the ferocious atmosphere of the Old Farm Derby. Aarons again looked unfazed, and put in a solid display as the game ended 1-1. Incredibly he then went on to start 40 Championship games in a row, finishing the 90 minutes in all bar one – the home fixture against Wigan Athletic.
Aarons scored two league goals last season, and both were vital. His first, bringing City back into the Cardiff game in which they would go on to win 3-1; the second goal earned a big point away at Bristol City, after a great ball in from Onel Hernandez.
A home fixture with Nottingham Forest would prove a massive insight into the character of the England Under-21 international. With Aarons now first-choice right-back and consistently performing to a high standard, almost for the first time he made an error leading to a goal. He was trying to dribble out of the box but was tackled by Matty Cash, who whipped the ball past Tim Krul.
The Hammersmith-born player responded and helped City come from three goals down to claim an unlikely draw. For the rest of the season, Aarons didn’t put a foot wrong and proved himself to be a key outlet in City’s style of play, providing much-needed width on the right-hand side with Emi Buendia floating around the pitch.
With promotion secured, many City fans believed Aarons would be able to take the Premier League by storm. City’s number 2, like the rest of the team, did take time to adjust to the league’s intensity and pace, being caught out for Chelsea’s opening goal by not being tight to Tammy Abraham.
The 20-year-old injured himself on international duty with the England Under-21s after a heroic block and missed Norwich’s best victory of the season, the 3-2 win over Manchester City. Since coming back from that ankle injury, Aarons has improved game-by-game and now looks accustomed to this league, showing his raw talent and containing the best wingers in the country.
His improvement was shown recently away at Tottenham Hotspur, looking defensively sound against Spurs’ young talented full-back/winger Ryan Sessegnon, who later went onto the foul Aarons in the box for Teemu Pukki’s penalty reply.
At the start of the season, I was sure that Max would be able to make the step up after looking so good in his first season in the first-team. The thing I like about his performances is that it doesn’t matter if it’s Stevenage or Spurs, Aarons plays the same way, keeping it simple and not trying over-complicate his game.
Like the rest of the young defence, initially, he was caught out and targeted for his lack of height and occasionally being caught out being too far forward on the counter, but he has really grown into this season as it has progressed.
In a one-on-one, he is very solid against most wingers. Recently he kept Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle fairly quiet and I thought he was fantastic against Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, who plays as more of a wing-back with the amount of possession his side have.
The only doubt I have, personally, is that I feel he jockeys his winger too much at times, giving them time to get an effort away, but his ability to spring a block out of nowhere is fantastic.
Unfortunately, I felt I had to do this article now as I don’t feel like we are going to be having our star man down the right for too much longer. Even in the summer, Aarons’ personal football coach claimed the youngster was ‘receiving calls every day’ from Premier League clubs.
It’s easy to forget he is just 20-years-old and hasn’t yet had two full years of senior football under his belt, but that’s testament to the week in, week out performances and I feel like this young man is going to go very far in the game.