Next up on our season review list is one Carl Jenkinson. The name evokes...well, the name evokes a 60 year old plumber, really, not an elite athlete, but here we are, looking at Jenks and seeing the future of Arsenal's defense. He had a good year, but let's ask the TSF'ers just how good "good" actually is, shall we?
If the Premier League was like Little League, they'd give out trophies for everything. Not just playing awards, but things like best celebration, most helpful, you know, everything so everyone can get a prize and feel good about themselves. In this scenario, Carl Jenkinson would win the prize for MOST IMPROVED ARSENAL PLAYER; he took a massive step up this season, when he was pressed into duty to cover for the injured Bacary Sagna and pretty much took the job over as his own more or less instantly. In the crazypants Cup game against Reading, he got the equalizing goal, and that was just one of the moments this season when I looked at Jenkinson and thought "man, this kid is good".
He has already expressed a desire to replace Sagna should the Frenchman leave, and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that should that happen, Jenkinson will be an upgrade - as much as I like Sagna, his inconsistency's a killer, and Jenkinson can take over and make Arsenal better every single game. As he gets older, he'll only get better, and I'm glad he signed a fresh contract this season.
Carl Jenkinson is by no means the finished article yet, but remember when everyone was a bit perplexed by his arrival from Charlton after basic obscurity outside of the football league? Well, 14 appearances this year for Arsenal and one England cap later, Jenkinson's firmly in line to become Arsenal's next right back, if his improvement continues. He had rough moments this year, to be sure, like Swansea at the Emirates, but when he was asked to fill in for Sagna, for the most part, he did well.
He may not quite have the positional awareness that Bac does yet, but he is tireless, extremely fast, and a good crosser. If he can work out a partnership with Theo Walcott in the way that Sagna has and improve his defending further, there's little reason to think that he can't seriously push Sagna next year (and vice versa). I kind of like Carl a lot, you guys.
GRADE: C (but with A upside)
Carl Jenkinson had a sparkling campaign, making his England debut and becoming a genuine competitor for Bacary Sagna. He excelled in many difficult matches, including Bayern Munich away, and showed a belief that was lacking last season when he often looked like a dear in headlights. He's strong, but also deceptively quick, allowing him to keep up with the quickest wingers, but also knock them off the ball. His positioning can still use a little bit of work, and he is still raw on occasion, as Sunderland ruthlessly showed in February.
Jenkinson rebounded well from that setback, and was extremely solid when filling in for Sagna until the middle of March. He still needs work on the ball, but it definitely improved this season and his crossing remains a plus. He's definitely a capable back-up who can fill in for long periods, but I hesitate to say that Jenkinson is ready to be the full-time starter next season, which is why it'd be nice to see Sagna stay for at least one more campaign.
We learned quite a few things about Carl Jenkinson this season. His dad, unfortunately, did not sing backup vocals on "Total Eclipse of the Heart;" he's sneaky-quick and has phenomenal marking abilities (see: Manchester City away), and he's still learning that the EPL is a fast league with tricky wingers who are able to exploit eager wide backs (see: Sunderland away). He's our future right back and it's clear why Arsene Wenger and Company worked feverishly to ensure Jenkinson's long-term stay at Arsenal, but it was not a shock to see Wenger go with the more-experienced Bacary Sagna this year.
Unless the player is of exceptional talent, Wenger prefers to grow the player through training and Cup starts along with the occasional league start and substitution appearance, and in my eyes Wenger was choosing to allow Jenkinson's growth in this manner while showcasing Sagna for a potential transfer away. When looking back, Jenkinson impressed us at times and he made us face-palm in disgust while reminding us all he's 21 and still less than two seasons removed from League 2. The kid's got it. He just didn't have it all, consistently, this season.
Carl Jenkinson somehow made 22 appearances this season while still making me feel like he wasn't getting enough playing time. I'm not totally sure why I thought this - was it because Bacary Sagna wasn't up to his usual quality? because Jenkinson was playing particularly well? just because I like him and want him to succeed? because I was terrified that Sagna's leg was going to fall off? Honestly, I'm not sure.
He almost scored a goal against Reading in the Bananas Cup game, and I remain convinced that it was actually him. He's a Gooner, he's a good player, and he's quite young. If Sagna does end up out the door I will be unhappy (as I've said in his own review), but I think Jenkinson has a very bright future. I'll be okay with him taking over. His granddad would be proud.