It’s sink or swim time for Rolando Aarons and Hellas Verona in northern Italy.
While the Serie A club battle relegation, Newcastle United’s Aarons is on board to resurrect his injury-ravaged career – the winger’s clear promise having earned just 137 minutes of Premier League pitch time this term, despite belatedly staying fit for a significant stretch.
The loan move should be a good one for Aarons, who will have the opportunity to prove himself against Lazio, Inter, Milan, Juventus and, this last weekend, Roma.
But Verona are 19th in Serie A and it is easy to see why some believe the league should be cut to 18 teams.
Roma slaughtered Fabio Pecchia’s side, somehow scoring only once in a first half when Verona simply could not keep the ball – 72% pass accuracy, 29% possession, and Aarons lost between the left wing and a central striking role.
Even when the Giallorossi were reduced to 10 men shortly after the restart, the pendulum did not swing. Aarons was anonymous until his 71st-minute withdrawal.
Indeed, Verona still look like the easily dispatched side that left Newcastle a little under-cooked after their final pre-season friendly back in August.
Aarons is a talent, though. He was often left frustrated by his team-mates’ wastefulness – their lack of technical proficiency apparent – but the 22-year-old showed some nice touches towards the end of the first half, creating space for others to fail to exploit.
This was just the sixth league start of Aarons’ career, after all. Three of his opponents have now been Chelsea, Manchester City and Roma.
The Jamaican-born wide man will surely learn in Italy, and he should be credited for his decision to embrace a different culture, but he is now at an age where he must start to deliver.
Verona’s limited squad may well depend on a player of Aarons’ quality to survive, while only a starring role under Pecchia is likely to convince Rafa Benitez that his time has come.
As Jadon Sancho and Ademola Lookman star in Germany, Aarons – himself a former England youth international – has been given a chance to express himself in Italy. It is one he simply has to take.