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In Focus: Young Lion Aarons out to Max his potential on the big stage
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Matthew Storey
Norwich's Max Aarons will look to drive England's Under-21s forward from right-back
Norwich's Max Aarons will look to drive England's Under-21s forward from right-back

England’s rising stars will be on show over the next week as Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions take part in the group stage of the European Under-21 Championship.

With the tournament brought forward to avoid clashing with the delayed Euro 2020 senior competition, England's campaign kicks off against Switzerland this afternoon.

And one player expected to shine for Boothroyd's men is Norwich right-back Max Aarons, who has won plenty of admirers since making his first-team bow at 18. 

Still only 21, he has already turned down a switch to Barcelona and appears destined for a move to one of European football's powerhouses this summer. 

Ahead of today's clash, we take a closer look at the youngster earning rave reviews at Carrow Road. 

Plenty of experience

Aarons goes into the tournament as one of Boothroyd's most experienced players with 123 appearances for Norwich already under his belt.

And it is not like he has been eased into first-team football.

He broke into a side that won the Championship at a canter, suffered relegation the following season and now looks like bouncing back to the top flight at the first time of asking — probably as title winners once again. 

Speaking ahead of Aarons' 100th apearance earlier this season, Canaries boss Daniel Farke said: "I know he has been labelled as one of the best young players in this league.

"Well, I told him we can reject this label now because he is no longer one of the best young players — he is one of the best players.

"When you are close to 100 appearances you are already an experienced lad. 

"He is so young and he has to improve, and he will, but what he has done in the past two years is amazing. I cannot praise him enough."

Modern player

Without questions, Aarons is the archetypal modern-day full-back.

He loves to get forward with the ball at his feet, while his progressive runs — combined with a great understanding with Emi Buendia — have made Norwich's right flank lethal this term.

Max Aarons was on target against Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season
Max Aarons was on target against Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season

A tally of three assists this season is far from outstanding — and Aarons only notched one last termn — but stats show his expected assists stand at 1.4 per game.

Essentially, the finishing displayed by his team-mates has not helped pad his numbers, but he did find the back of the net in the 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday back in December.

More reliable

The drop back down to English football's second tier has helped Aarons hone his defensive capabilities.

Norwich conceded 57 goals in 2018-19 and 75 in their Premier League relegation season — numbers that are not sustainable for a side pushing for success. 

With eight games to go this season, the Championship leaders have only conceded 27 goals and the starlet's defensive game has undoubtedly improved.

After a shutout against Luton earlier this month, Aarons said: "To still keep that consistency with clean sheets and not conceding many goals is really good.

"It’s been brilliant for us as a defensive unit to have that. If you’re comparing it to two years ago, that’s what we didn’t have then."

Senior honours?

Aarons is one of the players in Boothroyd’s squad that onlookers can confidently say should get his chance at senior level.

Max Aarons could swap Norwich for one of the Premier League's top sides
Max Aarons could swap Norwich for one of the Premier League's top sides

The only thing stopping him from cementing a spot in Gareth Southgate’s side — or whoever takes over from the current boss when he eventually departs — is the sheer number of quality full-backs England possess.

Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold was left out of Southgate's latest squad due to his recent poor form and there is no doubting it is the hardest area to break into.

Aarons will need a strong top-flight campaign if he wants to graduate from the U-21s.

Move on the cards

He was very nearly at the centre of one of last summer’s most unlikely transfer moves when Barcelona tried to sign him on loan.

The remarkably mature Aarons said: "We decided it wasn’t the best fit at that time. I didn’t want to let it become a distraction and neither did anyone from the club.

"As soon as it was there, we spoke about it and then it was done and it was straight on to getting more wins."

His list of suitors has only grown since then, with Manchester United linked and Arsenal showing the biggest interest of the bunch.

Aarons will bring in a bumper fee for Norwich if he does depart — and having a second crack at the Premier League in a team that can focus more strongly on attacking would only benefit the youngster.


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