Originally posted on Goonersphere.
When Carl Jenkinson decided to ply his trade in East London for West Ham United this season, most Arsenal fans realised that he made this choice with one eye on returning to his beloved Gunners as a far improved player. It isn’t exactly a well kept secret that Jenkinson is a die-hard Gooner and playing with a Cannon on his chest was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream.
To have to appear with another clubs crest on his heart and not appear in front of thousands of like-minded fans would no doubt have been a decision made with a heavy heart. Arsene Wenger would have told him that it would enhance his career prospects and this would have been enough to sway the enthusiastic Right-Back. With the sage words of his Gaffer ringing in his ears, he joined the Hammers with the intention of stepping up a level and hopefully claiming the first choice Right-Back slot.
With 13 first team appearances ( with 9 as a sub ) last season, Carl didn’t exactly have the best of chances to impress. With his fleeting time on the pitch, he proved an able deputy but with a worrying penchant for being caught out of position. Seeing as this is a trait that most of our full-backs share, this can be forgiven. Much like the man who has taken the understudy mantle from Jenkinson – Hector Bellerin – he needed minutes on the pitch to gain experience and iron out the flaws which he possessed.
With the addition of a battle-hardened and Arsenal-Ready Mathieu Debuchy, the already slim hopes Jenkinson would have had for more opportunities started to ebb away. With the approach from West Ham came with it the scope to enhance his skills and force his way into Arsene Wenger’s thoughts.
I cannot speak for Monsieur Wenger and his miasma of constant thinking, but Gooners have kept a close eye on our comrade and self-pronounced ‘Corporal of Bantz’. Jenkinson has already made more appearances this season than in the whole of last season and has impressed all who have watched him. His attacking play has never been doubted but it seems to have improved further. His distribution for more aerially-suited players such as Carroll has benefitted and with West Ham’s switch to more swashbuckling football, this has also aided Carl.
Jenkinson and his defensive assets were always the reins that held him back. A move to shleter under the ample wing of Big Sam was always going to aid his shortcomings. Sam Allardyce has made a managerial career out of frustrating more able teams. He was always the right man to implement better defensive measures within Jenkinson’s mind. It has worked.
Jenkinson has impressed at both ends of the pitch and will surely look to come back at the end of the season and fight for a regular spot. He has commented on his struggle sitting on the bench and after a season of regular football, he will expect this next season. Arsene Wenger has reportedly informed the Hammers heirarchy that a bid between £8m and £12m would be enough to bag Jenkinson, but does that imply he is willing to let him go or is it a ploy to scare away West Ham so we can keep him? With a fee that is tipping double figures in millions, is that meant to send a signal that we aren’t willing to sell?
If Carl does return to Colney next season – what are his obstacles and chances? Mathieu Debuchy – injuries aside – will surely remain first choice. That leaves a straight duel between Hector and Carl. Both still a little raw, but surely with a full season of football behind him that puts Carl in the driving seat? Unfortunately, we cannot pretend to know how Wenger will see this predicament. With Hector sometimes appearing to play as a winger, in certain difficult games we could have Carl as RB and Bellerin ahead of him for extra cover? What about moving Jenkinson into a Centre-Back role? Would he get enough games now that Gabriel is in our ranks?
The real problem Jenkinson has is Bellerin. Debuchy maybe has another two years left in his tank before he is shipped out. Does he want to wait and duke it out with our young Spaniard for a couple of seasons? Or does he leave his adored Arsenal and potentially garner a guaranteed first team slot in the direct eyeline of Roy Hodgson?
All Gooners would welcome him back with open arms and with the debilitating injuries we have had this season, an able Jenkinson would have been a welcome salve. Next season we can predict that injuries will have a part to play, but will it present an open door to Jenkinson?
I dearly hope Jenkinson gets a shot to cement a place in our backline. I also think Debuchy is a better player at present. You have to blood the younger players and Jenkinson represents a fantastic prospect who could line up in our jersey for years to come. The problem is that so could Bellerin. What a dilemma Wenger has.