Norwich City were the neutral's favourite team in the 2019/20 Premier League season.
Daniel Farke's Canaries were bursting with exciting, young players who wanted to play attractive football, and they weren't prepared to change for anyone. It was admirable, and something that earned Norwich plenty of new fans.
They didn't manage to stay up for a second consecutive campaign in the top flight, but it was a valuable experience for right-back Max Aarons. The England Under-21 international recently featured on an adidas & 90min podcast to celebrate the release of the new X Ghosted boot, and lifted the lid on his experiences of playing against some of the best teams on the continent.
"Going up the way we did and how I'd played in the Championship, I definitely thought I was ready for that level, and it came at a good time," Aarons said.
"I remember we had Liverpool as our first game, and that was where I realised we can compete at this level. We played well. We lost 4-1, but we played well and that was when I realised we can compete at this level, but this is a big step up.
"We didn't take any of our chances and then we scored an own goal, and it was like a sucker punch. I felt like we'd been on top. It was a cruel, cruel feeling, but Liverpool have got that much quality that two, three and four went in, and we went in at half-time 4-0 down.
"I was just looking around thinking 'you can be on top in a game and they just punish you like that'. That's the difference."
It was a common theme for Norwich all season. They were often on top in their games and yet walked away with just five victories all year.
Farke's side conceded a league-high 75 goals across their 38 games, while their 26 goals scored also saw them rank bottom of the division, and Aarons quickly realised that the only thing that matters in the Premier League is the final scoreline, nothing else.
"In the Premier League, some teams aren't bothered about possession stats, having the ball or being on top. They're just ruthless," he says. "They'll kill you off when you least expect it. You'll be on top in the game and they'll get just one chance, and the next thing you know, you're 1-0 down, which is the thing you had to get your head around.
"I know they're not a possession-based team, but Manchester United on the counter-attack against us, they just picked us off. They just killed us.
"I'd probably say they're the best counter-attacking team in the league, they were just punishing us, and that had me thinking 'every time we lose the ball here, we get punished'. That kind of brought home [the change of level]."
It would have been easy for Aarons to get disheartened, but their young side continued to try and showcase their skills and were prepared for whatever came around as a result of that.
"I think that's the most I'd improved in my whole career," Aarons adds. "I started off the season well, then got injured and missed two games, then came back in and I didn't feel right, but I built it back up again. I felt I had a really good period in that season where I was playing really well, and over the course of the season I thought I did play well.
"It was probably the biggest learning curve I'd had, coming up against the best wingers in the world. In the Championship, I'd known what I could do going forward, but the Premier League taught me that what you do defensively is equally as important, and I had to develop my game. My game came on so much defensively, and now I feel like a much more well-rounded player."
The adidas X podcast is available on audio platforms to download and listen here:https://podfollow.com/adidas-x/view.