Max Aarons on adapting to life in the top-flight, playing with freedom and that FA Cup win at Spurs
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Adaptation to the Premier League, for Max Aarons, has been pretty smooth.
From persistent rumour mills to plaudits from pundits and opposing supporters alike. The 20-year-old has made quite an impact, and finds himself being linked with big-money moves to some of Europe’s elite clubs.
For the England under-21 international however, he owes his development to the Canaries. It was in City’s academy where Aarons was nurtured, and due to Daniel Farke that he is excelling in the top-flight.
“The club and the manager have done a great job in protecting me and taking pressure off me.”
“Regardless of the outside world, when I’m going onto the pitch I can express myself and take risks even if I make mistakes.
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“The manager gives us all such confidence. Internally, from the club, I feel no pressure. From the outside, as much as people knew about me from the Championship, I also had a lot to prove to new people who just watch the Premier League.
“People didn’t know what this Norwich team was all about. We’re quite young and have players that some people may not have heard of.
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“So for me, there was no pressure. I just wanted to show people what I can do in the Premier League.”
Aarons has impressed despite City sitting at the foot of the table. The Canaries have nine remaining fixtures to play, but the season is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking about expectation and adaption, Aarons believes City’s squad were exposed to the tempo and standard of the Premier League on the opening night of the season, when they played champions-elect Liverpool.
“The first game of the season was against Liverpool, we’d just walked out, started playing and we had a few chances. About 10 minutes into it they started to really turn it on and the tempo they were moving the ball was something I’d never experienced.
“The tempo was so quick and I remember having (Andrew) Robertson running at me, (Georgino) Wijnaldum running past the back four. We were 4-0 down at half-time and I thought to myself ‘wow, this is the level that we should be aspiring to get to’.
“The game ended up finishing 4-1 and I remember saying to Ben Godfrey, ‘wow, this is very sharp and this is the top level’.”
Aarons cites Andrew Robertson as the toughest full-back he’s faced this season, with Marcus Rashford named as the most dangerous forward he’s played against.
Despite City’s season being littered with hardships and knock-backs, the FA Cup fifth-round victory over Spurs is something Aarons recalls fondly.
“We played them a few weeks before and narrowly lost 2-1 but we should have taken something from that game, whether it was a point or won the game.
“A few of the players were hurt by that and a bit annoyed not to get anything, so getting the cup draw at their stadium again was a chance for us to redeem ourselves.
“We knew that playing against a Jose Mourinho side, that they’d be solid and hard to beat. We felt we could go there and get somewhere. The atmosphere was great, we took 9,000 fans and the place was buzzing.
“Our manager kept saying to us that ‘this is really set up for us to put on a real good show and get something from the game’. As soon as it went to extra time, as a team, we felt at our fittest and thought we could get something.
“We stayed in it during extra-time and it went to penalties. We thought that was our chance and we took it. It was great for our fans as well because so many travelled in numbers.
“For 90 minutes, the tempo was sharp and both teams were going at it. Then in extra-time, there was bigger spaces and everything went a bit sloppy.
“To then go to penalties and have to really focus on delivering a really big penalty is another thing in itself. Which is maybe why I was sixth on the list.”
A clip of fellow academy graduate Todd Cantwell went viral in the aftermath of that fixture.
Aarons recalls a memorable anecdote prior to Cantwell slotting the spot-kick into the top left corner.
“Before he actually took the penalty, I said ‘Toddy, are you nervous?’ and he said ‘No, no way. Why would I be nervous?’ and then he started walking towards the ball, did a few kick-ups and put it in the top corner,” Aarons told the Byline Podcast.
“We know what he did after that, which annoyed a few people in the stadium but the calmness and coolness he showed that day was massive. I couldn’t believe it. But he’s got that confidence, he’s that type of player.”