Newcastle United 3 Crystal Palace 3: Rolando Aarons lights up St James' Park
Does Alan Pardew have an ace up his sleeve in Rolando Aarons? With more dribbles and shots than any of his team-mates, the teenage winger looks like one to watch after a shining cameo
By Peter Fraser - Follow on Twitter @PeteFraser_
Last Updated: 30/08/14 7:02pm
Having waited 232 minutes, including injury time, Newcastle United broke their Premier League goalscoring drought for the season. Indeed, they scored three. Even Mike Williamson was on target.
Yet in the often perplexing arena of St James’ Park, a first top-flight win of the campaign was still out of reach for Alan Pardew’s team. The thrilling 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon was a sample of the good, the bad and the downright barmy of the Premier League.
However, amid the hectic, topsy-turvy unfolding of this sun-drenched contest, with Neil Warnock back in charge of Palace and the visitors scoring goals in the opening and closing seconds, one player stood out among the variety of narratives.
Rolando Aarons only entered the game as a substitute in the 67th minute but his arrival from the bench brought an attacking verve to his Newcastle team which had been horribly absent.
After defeat by Manchester City and a stalemate with Aston Villa, questions were already being asked of Newcastle’s goalless squad. It was therefore a sense of relief on the Gallowgate End which met Daryl Janmaat’s 37th minute equaliser at 1-1 versus Palace. The excitement came later.
Just days after being called up for England’s Under 20s, 18-year-old Aarons, a 2012 trialist from Bristol City who went on to earn a scholarship at Newcastle, was given only a second Premier League appearance of his career.
Having been promoted to Newcastle’s first-team squad after an impressive pre-season, Aarons’ Premier League debut had come as a 74th minute substitute in the loss to City. He then started in the Capital One Cup win over Gillingham.
Aarons, who moved to England from Jamaica as a child, was forced off due to injury at Gillingham but he looked more than fully fit when sent on against Palace. His performance will make him one to watch for the rest of the season.
At the time of his introduction versus Palace, it appeared more a state of desperation from Pardew; turning to a teenager when Newcastle were 2-1 down. But, with hindsight, it seems a very shrewd tactical move.
I look at Aarons and he has got pace, he has got ability, he leaps for fun and this boy is a real talent. He can excite you, but he does it in the right areas
Many of Aarons’ attack-minded team-mates had lumbered in the face of a motivated Palace. For example, summer signing Emmanuel Riviere failed to manage a single shot while Opta registering his touch in the pinball build-up to Janmaat’s goal seemed generous in the extreme.
Likewise, the man Aarons replaced, Yoan Gouffran, had mustered just one shot and so had Siem de Jong. The one-paced, disjointed manner of Newcastle’s performance, with Papis Cisse only working his way back to fitness, was ammunition for those who had questioned a failure to bring in a high-calibre striker in the summer.
It would surely have been a concern for Pardew, who had used his pre-match programme notes to say: “No other Premier League club has brought in more players than us this summer. It has therefore been a positive transfer window for Newcastle.”
Quantity over quality is hardly the measure by which football fans judge players and so the buzz caused by Aarons will be welcome relief for a side who, before the weekend, had averaged just two shots on target per game in the new top-flight season, with only Villa and Burnley averaging less.
In his less than half-an-hour on the field versus Palace, left-footed winger Aarons attempted five shots – more than any of his team-mates and headed the equaliser at 2-2 (see above graphic). It was also his right-footed cross-shot which hit the frame of the goal for Williamson to score for the first time since the centre-back’s Watford days in August 2009.
On top of this, Aarons’ passes were played at a success rate of 87.5 per cent while he completed three successful dribbles, which was again more than any of his team-mates.
There were more than a few similarities to Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling. Aarons still obviously has a lot to learn and will need to add some strength having too often been knocked off the ball but he looked the real deal.
If Newcastle can encourage his potential and development then the rest of the Premier League will need to beware. Pardew must now decide whether to start his teenage star at Southampton after the international break.