ANALYSIS: Aarons has chance to shine in Canaries wing-back role
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ozan Kabak and Max Aarons were deep in conversation as they emerged for the second half against Brighton last weekend.
The Turkey international appeared to be telling his right wing-back to push further up the pitch and that he’d do his best to play passes into his path.
Aarons spoke after the game about enjoying the new freedom to attack but that he was still adjusting to Kabak being on the right of a back three and being able to take on some of his previous defensive work.
Daniel Farke needs both of his wing-backs to get up and down on both sides of the pitch, of course, but the second half of Saturday’s 0-0 draw with the Seagulls saw Aarons really starting to grow into his new role.
The 21-year-old is yet to register a goal or assist this season but thought he’d broken that pattern in the 64th minute with a perfect through-ball to find Teemu Pukki in the box, only for the Finn to scuff his shot wide from close range.
His statistics are yet to really show an increased attacking emphasis though, since switching to the 3-5-2 shape for the last three Premier League games, although his defensive numbers have dropped off slightly as would be expected.
That’s little surprise, given City failed to score against Everton, Burnley and Brighton but Aarons has averaged slightly more touches (14.6) in the attacking third of the pitch.
His average positioning has gradually moved further forward, with Saturday’s heatmap showing the academy product’s touches being more advanced than his best performance of the so far, during the 2-1 home defeat to Leicester.
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Symbolising that City are still getting to grips with their more defensive approach, Aarons' average touches have dropped from 64.4 per game from the opening five fixtures to 55.3 since the tactical tweak and his average passes have dropped slightly from 34.8 to 30.
Often being used as a regular outlet as a right-back, Aarons appears to be getting fewer chances to attack, with his successful dribbles average going from 1.8 per game down to 0.6.
His average for progressive yards (moving forward with the ball) have also dropped from 142.8 yards to 132.3 as a wing-back.
It’s too soon to make definite judgements but with overall averages so far this season of 0.9 shots and 0.6 crosses per match, it appears Aarons can offer City more if he can embrace his attacking opportunity.
Skinning Lucas Digne at Everton, firing just wide at Burnley, playing Pierre Lees-Melou in to win the penalty and picking out Pukki and Adam Idah with crosses against Leicester - City fans know Aarons has quality.
Farke needs his wing-backs to step up their attacking contributions further though, if the current formation is going to strike the balance required to keep picking up points.
- Stats supplied by WhoScored.com and FBRef.com
NCFC EXTRA: Aarons relishing new Norwich City role