David Freezer: England U21 call must be close after Aarons’ mature start to Premier League life with City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
He may be the youngest member of Daniel Farke’s vibrant team but Max Aarons is showing maturity beyond his years already in the Premier League.
So much of the excitement among Canaries fans before that big opening night at Anfield revolved around seeing how the young stars, who had propelled City's title triumph, would fare against the big boys.
At 19 years old and less than a year since making his professional debut, Aarons found himself up against the European champions, competing with players who not long ago had merely been stars of computer games for an academy hopeful.
It was a brutal welcome for the England Under-19 international at Liverpool as well, being beaten by Divock Origi ahead of Grant Hanley's grim own goal for 1-0 and again as the Belgian got across him to head in a superb Trent Alexander-Arnold cross for 4-0.
Plenty of young players would have disappeared into their shell but the former Luton Town trainee is made of stern stuff.
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Along with the rest of his Norwich team-mates, Aarons hit reset at half-time and got back to the buccaneering attacking style which had boldly brought Championship success the previous season - and that carried into the Newcastle game last weekend.
City's full-backs were back to their 2018-19 swashbuckling selves, often pressing forward as auxiliary wingers and pinning the Magpies back, who looked shell-shocked as yellow shirts swarmed around them.
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Aarons was in the thick of that and just three players on the pitch had more than his 76 touches of the ball during City's 3-1 victory at a rocking Carrow Road: midfielders Mo leitner (118), Emi Buendia (86) and Tom Trybull (83), according to WhoScored.com.
To emphasise just how important the youngster is to Farke's approach, it was a remarkable 43rd consecutive league start for the attacking right-back. Only keeper Tim Krul has more, with a consecutive run of 48 league starts.
In just the fifth minute it was Aarons' driving run forward and pass which led to Todd Cantwell going so close to a deserved early goal.
He was chastised by his more experienced team-mates four minutes later after reacting too slowly to the danger posed by Matt Ritchie, with the subsequent fine cross lashed over by Emil Krafth.
That merely kicked Aarons into gear though, showing top-quality control to bring down a sumptuous cross-field pass from Buendia and also winning the corner from which Teemu Pukki would eventually volley City in front in glorious style.
The maturity was there as well though, taking a yellow card for the team to make sure Ritchie didn't get away from him shortly before half-time.
Then the real test came before half-time, when a frustrated Joelinton caught him late on the ankle, earning the lumbering Newcastle striker a booking of his own and leaving Aarons limping through to the break - but he didn't react and kept his cool, with plenty of good defensive work following in the second half.
I sincerely hope I'm not tempting fate here but the standards Aarans has set during his first year as a professional have been little short of phenomenal - and the good thing is, you sense there is still plenty of room for growth. That's not a dig at Max's diminutive stature, by the way...
Indeed it's that lack of growing pains which make the defender's development so impressive and when you add that City also have Ben Godfrey, Jamal Lewis, Buendia and now Cantwell all blazing a trail to the top as well, it's a truly exciting time to be watching the Canaries.
You'd like to think that an England Under-21 call-up may not be too far away, ahead of European Championship qualifiers against Turkey and Kosovo during the approaching international break.
Liverpool star Alexander-Arnold, 20, appears to be competing with established stars Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier at senior level so may well be beyond U21 consideration.
And with Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tottenham's Kyle Walker-Peters and Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles now just beyond the age criteria for the 2021 U21 Euros, Aarons must be close to his first U21 call.
If you were wondering, Ben Godfrey just slips under the qualifying wire, as the cut off for the competition is players born on or after January 1, 1998. With the powerful centre-back born on January 15, 1998, and also making a bright start to Premier League life, it would be no surprise to see both in Aidy Boothroyd's squad.