Since Bacary Sagna’s second leg break of the 2011-12 season, Carl Jenkinson has been subject to intense pressure in providing cover on the right side of the defense. Since the start of his Arsenal, Jenkinson wasn’t deemed trustworthy enough by many, citing his lack of technical skill a major issue. Carl took those claims and threw them to the wind, showing why he deserved to wear the red and white.
His signing was poorly timed, given the looming departures of key players Gaël Clichy, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. With three figureheads of the team off to rival teams, signing an unknown 19-year-old prospect from Charlton wasn’t exactly what the fans wanted. As to be expected, Arsène Wenger was mocked for weeks on end about signing another child.
At first, harsh criticism seemed fully deserved. In his debut against Koln, Carl managed a dubious own goal in which he volleyed the ball into Wojciech Szczesny’s net from at least 30 yards away. Not the most endearing start to his campaign with Arsenal, but at least it was memorable. In that tremendous volley, and some well placed crosses in that match, Jenkinson did manage to show that he wasn’t as technically weak as some suggested.
As time wore on, he was eventually replaced by Bacary Sagna, until injury struck for the first time in the season. A broken leg ruled him out until Arsenal’s Champion’s League clash with A.C. Milan, once again thrusting Carl into the limelight. Again, he was lambasted for various reasons, such as a lack of defensive discipline, poor technique and lapses in concentration. His irregular schedule didn’t help; Jenkinson only started 5 matches, and appeared as a substitue 4 times.
All was well among Arsenal fans upon the return of Sagna to first team lineup. Unfortunately, injury struck again a few months later at home to Norwich City, with Sagna having his right leg broken in the same place. It was a huge blow to the side, as the Gunners managed to scavenge a point out of the match, but faced a must win match against West Brom. In steps Carl Jenkinson.
it was a match of mistakes, thankfully none the fault of Carl, but in the end it was only the result that mattered. Arsenal finished third above Tottenham, and Champion’s League football was assured.
Fast forward fast preseason 2012, and we find ourselves in Arsenal’s first match of the season against Sunderland. Jenkinson started the match alongside Per Mertesacker, under new instruction from Steve Bould. The transformation of the back line as a whole must be noted, but the improvement seen in Carl over these last couple weeks has been nothing short of magical.
Defensive work and “magical” don’t often go together, but this time the word takes real meaning. Gone are the days of Jenkinson being caught out against a quick winger, of him losing the ball in possession, of his misunderstanding of our extremely aggressive offside trap. We look at Carl as a completely changed player, a defender of purpose. The stats back up his improvement as well, but still obtain slight bias due to the fact that he hasn’t played as many matches as last season yet.
|Pass Success Rate||86.2%||81.6%|
|Average Accurate Crosses||0.6||0.6|
|Avg. Accurate Long Balls||3||3.8|
In the key statistical areas of his position, Carl has improved on 6/8 of the criteria. Not too shabby for someone who’s yet to hit his 21st birthday.
In many ways I consider Carl to be Gary Neville reincarnated. He may not be the best on the ball, or have the most goals, or be the fastest, but he’s the defender you can count on to be consistent if shown faith.
Jenkinson is still a long way off of being a starter, especially with Sagna scheduled to return within weeks, but it’s good to know that beyond our first choice, we always have a trusty backup. Arsène’s eye never misses a diamond in the rough.