Name: Aaron Connolly
Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
Date of Birth: 28 January 2000
Aaron Connolly – his career so far
Even though he is only 20 years of age, we can already say that Aaron Connolly is among the young talents at Brighton & Hove Albion who have already made it at the top level for their clubs. But in order to see the full story behind the breakout Scottish gem, we have to go back a little bit.
Prior to his emergence onto the Premier League scene, Connolly was a part of Brighton’s academy, clawing his way up the ranks and making his mark on every age category within the club. He joined the team back in 2016 from Irish club Mervue United, arriving on a trial and quickly impressing his suitors who offered him a two-year scholarship with the U18 squad.
Connolly ended up making 17 appearances and bagging three goals for that side but was quickly deemed too good and was fast-tracked into the U23s where he flourished and dominated the scene entirely.
He scored a brace on his debut for the young team in the 2016/17 campaign and then proceeded to net in several games following that one, turning heads of the upper hierarchy along the way.
For that reason, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he was handed his senior debut at 17 years of age shortly after that as he featured in the 1-0 victory over Barnet in the EFL Cup in 2017. But still, he remained with the U23s for the majority of that campaign.
2018/19 was also quite impressive for the youngster but by the end of it, he would be sent out on loan to Luton Town where he could only muster two appearances for the then League One outfit before returning back home, playing two more games for the U23 squad and then finally making that big step up to the Premier League where he is now.
Connolly scored 31 goals and provided three assists across 42 games for Brighton’s U23 team and has spent 2019/20 as a regular part of the seniors, already tallying 22 games under his belt with three strikes and one assist to his name.
The Irishman scored his first senior goal in a 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers in the EFL Cup, and made his Premier League debut at the Etihad against Manchester City in August 2019. His first Premier League goals arrived in that remarkable 3-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur in October that same year when he netted an impressive brace to lead Brighton to victory.
There are indeed no real transfer rumours or transfer news currently surrounding Brighton’s young talent and his future currently seems quite set on remaining at the club. Of course, this should not take anything away from his quality and talent since he has since been included in a variety of lists and rankings for 2019/20.
For instance, the Irish Times have named him among the top 10 Irish performers in the Premier League and SportsMole believe he is among Brighton’s most valuable players at the moment. And while this gives us little indication of his immediate future, no Brighton news suggests they should be worried about a potential swoop in the not so distant future.
There were a couple of interested parties in recent years as the likes of Manchester United and Celtic were mentioned among the clubs who could move for the young gem but nothing has transpired from it and the transfer rumours on the mill have gone silent since.
Even though he can’t really boast with a particularly big frame nor an abundance of pace, Connolly is the type of a centre-forward who will torment the defenders for 90 minutes with his constant movement across the box and the final third as a whole, swapping positions and attacking space with intent.
At the moment, that seems like the best feature of his player profile as he knows how and when to exploit the space behind the opposition’s back even though he is only 20 years of age.
At times, he has also been deployed on the flanks but that is definitely not his preferred role as he doesn’t really have the pace and the exquisite technique to be a prolific winger. But 5.28 dribbles per 90 minutes in 2019/20 and 3.22 shots, both of which have just under a 50% success rate, do mean he’s a menace for defences.
By studying his heatmap, however, we can see that he has a tendency of dropping a bit deeper down the pitch and often occupying the left half-space in order to advance the ball and confuse his markers by moving away from his initial position.
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