Aarons on Rio, changing agent and City's focus for Chelsea challenge
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The pull of having Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand as a mentor was a major part of Max Aarons’ decision to change agents recently, the Norwich City wide man has explained.
New Era Global Sports announced last month that the England Under-21 international had joined them, the same agency that includes Ben Godfrey, the Murphy twins and Everton defenders Michael Keane and Mason Holgate among its clients.
Former England centre-back Ferdinand has been a cheerleader for Godfrey’s potential before and after his big-money move to Everton last year and works as an ambassador for the agency, which includes former Norwich defenders Jon Newsome and Darren Kenton among its staff.
The 21-year-old was previously represented by Darren Dein, the son of influential former Arsenal and Football Association vice-chairman David Dein, and has become adept at having to deal with almost constant transfer links to major European clubs since breaking through at City at 18.
“I’ve known Rio on and off since I first started playing professionally and him, alongside another person that he works closely with there, just their visions and what they have in store for me – how they can improve me on the pitch as well,” Aarons explained.
“Just little bits here and there, he’s one of the best defenders to ever play the game, so to have someone like that in your corner and to get advice from, is just brilliant for me.”
With 13 England U21 caps, two Championship title winners’ medals, a Golden Boy nomination and close to 50 Premier League appearances to his name, the former Luton Town trainee has achieved much ahead of his 22nd birthday in January.
During the summer transfer window he was linked to clubs including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Everton and West Ham.
Borussia Dortmund had an enquiry about a loan with an option to buy dismissed late in the window, after similar interest from Barcelona and Roma previously that both Aarons and City sporting director Stuart Webber have discussed publicly.
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The Canaries academy product hopes Ferdinand’s advice can help kick him on to the next level, as he tries to help Norwich achieve top-flight survival - with his current contract set to run until 2024.
“He text me before the game and gave me a few pointers on Brighton as a team, because he obviously does a lot of analysis on BT and stuff so he knows better than anyone,” Aarons explained after Saturday’s 0-0 draw.
“He’s played the game at such a high level that he can give me little pointers here and there and it definitely helped me, just little bits defensively, with him being a centre-back, what he would want from a wing-back.
“So it massively helps me and is really good. He’s played with some of the best players in the world, so to take advice from someone like him will only improve me.”
Aarons eventually joined Norwich as a 16-year-old, having spent time training with clubs including Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United after leaving Luton.
He is set to face Chelsea on Saturday, with the Canaries very much the underdogs against last season’s Champions League winners, sitting bottom with just two points and two goals from eight games since promotion.
Aarons has played every minute of Premier League action so far and believes City have to stay focused on their defensive improvements against the table-topping Blues, after steadying the ship with goalless draws against Burnley and Brighton.
“Off the back of these two performances, I definitely think it would have been nice to have won one of them, if not both, but going to Chelsea we have to go there believing that we can win, first and foremost,” he looked ahead.
“I feel like if we are as solid as we were (against Brighton) and create the chances on the break or in possession, with just a little bit more quality in front of goal, then we’ll be fine.”
His role has changed in the last three games, playing as a right wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation as head coach Daniel Farke brought a halt to six successive defeats.
Now the City players are trying to take confidence from back-to-back clean sheets in search of a first win.
“Massively important,” Aarons said of those shut-outs. “It gives us confidence as a back five, Tim (Krul) as well and as a team.
“Definitely in this league you have to give yourself a base by being defensively solid because you can’t win 4-3 or 3-2 in this league every week.
“I’m really pleased with that and how we’re looking defensively. Now we’ve started to create chances as well so that was really pleasing.”
Some supporters have bemoaned the shift in style away from the attacking freedom that has won two Championship titles but Aarons has approved of the change in formation, while stressing that tactical flexibility is a necessity for successful sides.
“If you look at the best teams or the teams that are successful, they can always mix it up and are unpredictable,” he continued.
“We’re a possession-based side but now you are starting to see that we can mix it up and make runs in behind and do the other side well as well.
“I think the change in formation has really helped us and has given us that solidity. But we’re also learning it now and it’s just about finishing it off.
“I’m sure it will come. We’ve got a tough game against Chelsea next but that formation allows us to counter teams.”
NCFC EXTRA: Aarons relishing new Norwich City role