After a breakthrough season where he played a part in nine Norwich goals and earned the accolade of EFL Young Player of the Season during his club’s Championship title winning campaign, the Premier League has proved to be a challenging prospect for 20-year old Max Aarons, failing to create an assist or score a goal in a team that are currently enduring the worst defensive record in the top-flight.
But Aarons is gradually appearing to rekindle the form that saw him cement his place as Norwich’s premier right-back during his debut season in the second tier. Bursting forward at every opportunity in one of the world’s most impressive stadiums, Aarons capped a torrid night for fellow England Under-21 international, Ryan Sessegnon, earning a penalty that almost manufactured a deserved point against Spurs during the week.
And it is his recent form that has captured the interest of clubs like Spurs and Arsenal during the January transfer window.
Championship delight, Premier League fright
Such was the vast progression of Aarons in a short space of time that he has only missed three hours of league football since his debut on 2nd September 2018. Despite having no prior professional experience, he went on a run of 45 consecutive fixtures before an injury in September but has since played the last 18 league fixtures.
But Aarons, cousin of Newcastle flop Rolando, struggled in the opening half of the Premier League campaign, both defensively and offensively. There was a visible decline in his attacking runs down the right that made him such a prominent feature of the squad in the Championship, a similar issue for left-back Jamal Lewis who has dropped out of the starting eleven during 2020.
In his first 12 games of the season, Aarons, who provided six assists last season, failed to execute a single cross. Albeit Norwich play with a lone striker and have to defend for much larger chunks of games in the top-flight, Aarons’ service was clearly depleted. Only once did he play more than 50 passes per game before December.
The pace of the Premier League also proved to be a struggle in the opening months, Aarons making just four interceptions in those first 12 fixtures.
Making a difference
But the youngster’s gradual development and improved maturity since Christmas was underpinned by arguably his best performance of the season against Spurs. Sessegnon, still considered one of England’s brightest prospects in wide areas for the national team, could not get close to Aarons in a performance that was the latest mark in a fall from grace since making the leap from Championship to Premier League level.
Aarons completed more than 50 passes in a second successive game for the first time this season, making the most tackles (3) and registering the second highest number of dribbles (4) that he has produced in the entire campaign.
With 11 crosses in his last 10 matches, Aarons is beginning to offer more service for Pukki and the attacking midfielders. He has also produced 10 interceptions in the same period as he adjusts to the tempo of the Premier League.
Notably, the right-back has only been dribbled past twice since mid-December, despite coming up against the likes of Ryan Fraser, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Wilf Zaha, Son Heung-Min and Jack Grealish.
As Aarons grows in reputation, so he does in stature. After failing to win a header for 12 matches since the opening day of the season, Aarons has won aerial battles in seven of the last nine.
Growing in prominence, promise and form, just where will the future take him?