Wingers are one of the key facets of English football. In Rolando Aarons, we have a young prospect who could be one of the best wingers in the English Premier League. He seems to have the world at his feet and is happy to let his feet do the talking.
Who is Rolando Aarons?
Rolando Aarons was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on the 16th of November in 1995. At the age of 5, Aarons made the move to Bristol, England with his mother. A 9-year-old Rolando Aarons joined his local Sunday league team and impressed enough to be scouted and signed by Bristol City in 2009. Despite his talent, personal problems meant he was released by Bristol City in 2012.
“Where I lived in Bristol wasn’t the best of areas and I wasn’t the best of persons back then, but I’ve matured and grown up. I definitely think that moving away helped me to mature and grow up. It has helped me become what I am now and I’m not looking back at all.” Rolando Aarons on his time in Bristol
What’s striking about Rolando Aarons’ personal history is the character he showed in turning his career prospects around after his release. Most youth footballers drop down a level when they get released. In Aarons’ case, he actually went up the ladder and, through his hard work in developing his game, earned a chance at Newcastle United. After impressing in his Newcastle trial, Aarons signed a youth contract with the club. Coming through the academy system on Tyneside, Rolando Aarons truly burst onto the scene in 2014. Told by the club to work hard in the hope of earning a loan move in the lower divisions of the English football pyramid, the Jamaican-born teenager ended up impressing to the extent of being a part of the 1st-team plans of then-Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. A goal and an assist against FC Schalke 04 in a pre-season friendly tournament capped off a fine pre-season for Aarons. Having picked up the ball on the left flank, just inside the Newcastle half, Rolando Aarons turned past Marco Hoger and ran at Marvin Friedrich. Aarons sped past Friedrich and went towards the byeline. With goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann clearly off his line, Aarons attempted a shot/cross from the left wing. The ball looped over Fahrmann and went in at the far post.
“The real highlight of pre-season has been Rolando. He was terrific again. It’s nice to see a young player really pushing, and I thought he caused real problems for Schalke – long may that continue.” Alan Pardew in pre-season for 2014/15
After his impressive pre-season under Pardew, Aarons was rewarded with a 1st-team squad number for the 2014/15 season. It was more than just any number, as Aarons had been given a number – 16 – that would be considered a “real” 1st-team shirt number rather than the usual random 34, 43 or 47 that young players are usually assigned. It bode well for the year ahead of him.
On the opening matchday of the 2014/15 campaign, Newcastle trailed 0-1 at home to Manchester City. Pardew looked to inject some pace into the Newcastle side and did so by bringing on Rolando Aarons for his official senior debut for Newcastle in the 2nd half. Though Man City went on to win 0-2, with a late stoppage time goal from Sergio Aguero, Aarons did not look out of place on the big stage that is the English Premier League.
In the Capital One Cup, Aarons made his full debut, his first start, for Newcastle against Gillingham in a 0-1 away win in the 2nd Round. The pacey youngster was a threat to the Gillingham defence with his direct play and running. He followed that up with 1 goal and 1 assist in a 3-3 league draw with Crystal Palace after coming off the bench in the 67th minute, when the game was tied at 1-1. Aarons was a constant threat to Man City in the Last-16 of the Capital One Cup and his goal set the tone for what was a brilliant Newcastle performance which deservedly put them through to the quarter-finals.
Injuries have been the main obstacle to his progress in his short time in Newcastle’s 1st-team. He has been limited to only a handful of appearances thus far but has been impressive when he has played. He has struggled with a hamstring injury for most of the season but has returned to action with minutes for Newcastle’s U-21s and against QPR on this 2014/15 season’s penultimate weekend.
Over the course of his debut year in the 1st-team Rolando Aarons made 4 Premier League appearances with 1 goal and 1 assist. In the Capital One Cup, he scored once in 2 appearances. Quantitatively, that adds up to 236 1st-team minutes with 2 goals and 1 assist – a goal/assist contribution every 79 minutes. Qualitatively, he has been one of the bright spots in Newcastle’s otherwise mediocre campaign.
On the international stage, Rolando Aarons made his England U-20 debut on 5th September 2014 in a 6-0 victory against Romania. Aarons scored the opener, assisted another goal and also was fouled in the box for a penalty as he debuted for England at youth level with a brilliant display. England manager Roy Hodgson was in the stands that night and was so impressed that Rolando Aarons was set to join the England seniors for training. Injury prevented Aarons from getting that chance.
“It’s been crazy. I’ve gone from U-21 football to the first team and to U-20s with England in no time.” Rolando Aarons in September 2014
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Physically, Aarons is not a big or particularly strong player. He stands at 1.75m and is of a lean build. He is still only 19 – turns 20 later this year – and thus we can expect him to add more muscle to his physique. It is as if he plays in line with how he looks – it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone who has never watched him play were to guess his position/role as “fast winger”.
“He’s someone the club are quite excited about. He’s like a flying winger with good ability – really good ability. He’s good running with the ball, and he’s one that we’ve got high hopes for in the first team. He’s probably the main one. We expect him to do good things.” Peter Beardsley, Newcastle legend and Head of the Newcastle United Academy
Rolando Aarons is a winger with bags of pace. His speed also allows him to be a threat to opponents as he frequently looks to get in behind the opposition defence, racing onto a through ball to get to the byeline or to go through for a chance at goal. Though not his strongest asset, Aarons has a proficient level of football intelligence. He looks to play with a direct style, constantly looking to pick up the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch to run at the opposition.
Rolando Aarons has the close control to comfortably run with the ball at speed and to dribble past opponents. His crossing is not as good as it should be but he is still young and very much a work-in-progress.With his work ethic and determined personality, one would expect him to set that right. Thus far he has shown competency – or at least glimpses of long-term potential in this aspect – in finishing off his chances in front of goal. An example would be his Capital One Cup goal against Man City to open the scoring in a 0-2 win. Aarons opened the scoring in the 6th minute after City were pressed into losing the ball in their own half. Racing onto a through pass, Aarons sped past Eliaquim Mangala with consummate ease before showing the composure to coolly slot the ball past Willy Caballero in goal. Aarons’ goal set the tone for what was a brilliant Newcastle performance which deservedly put them through to the quarter-finals.
Rolando Aarons plays with a youthful exuberance that is illustrated in his ambitious and adventurous play. He always looks to take the game to the opposition with his dynamism, pace and technical ability. As with almost every young speedy wideman, Aarons still has work to do to improve his decision-making. His pace advantage and skill will get him past his marker, but all that means nothing if he fails to make the right decision when it comes to his final ball. The potential is certainly there for Rolando Aarons to become one of the best and most exciting attackers of his generation in English football. Possibly European continental football as well. Keep working hard, as he has done thus far, and football fans around the world will love watching him speed past one opponent after another on his way to goals/assists.
What does the future hold?
For all his promise and potential, Rolando Aarons’ injury issues have to be settled if he is to push on and shine on the pitch. For a player of his pace, it is always a worry that a multitude of injuries – hamstring issues, which makes it a huge concern – would eventually take their toll. Touch wood, he could end up losing that sublime burst of pace that, with his trickery and technical ability, allows him to go past players for fun. However, he has since returned to 1st-team action and one would expect him to have a good pre-season in the months ahead before kicking on in 2015/16.
On the potential transfer side of things, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have been linked with a move for the youngster. However, in the short-term, Rolando Aarons should stay put at Newcastle and focus on truly making his mark on Tyneside. He would do well to add his name to the likes of David Ginola and Laurent Robert, players who have lit up St James’ Park with their quality and flair. In the long-term, if Newcastle are not able to satisfy Aarons’ ambitions, then it would be time for the inevitable parting of ways.
“It’s not like my personality to get carried away with anything. I like to take things in my stride and I’m quite humble, so it’s all fine.” Rolando Aarons
Aarons has the mentality required – humble, hardworking – to realise his potential. Hopefully injuries don’t clip his wings before he takes off. In football, Rolando Aarons has the potential to soar to great heights.
Written by Mark Ooi
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