This week, Carl Jenkinson signed a new five-year, £32,000-a-week contract with the club he supports, while making his international debut for England. It does not get much better than that and caps a remarkable turnaround after an unwanted starring role in Arsenal’s 8-2 collapse at Old Trafford last season.
In only his third start he was mercilessly exposed by Ashley Young, had a heated exchange with teammate Theo Walcott before being sent off. He looked every inch a League One full-back, out of his depth at the highest level. Not only was Jenkinson making a big step up, he had made only eight starts for Charlton before his £1m move to Arsenal.
He was seriously lacking in first-team experience and called upon because of a lack of cover, with Bacary Sagna deployed at left-back in place of the recently departed Gael Clichy. Jenkinson remained in the side due to Sagna’s broken leg and deputised until a stress fracture in his lower back sidelined him for three months. He was used sparingly for the remainder of the campaign when he returned to fitness.
Sagna broke the same leg at the end of last season and subsequently missed the start of the current campaign, resulting in Jenkinson’s return to the starting line-up. This time he has excelled, with his fine form warranting an improved contract and international recognition. “Carl is a guy with massive potential and I believe the positive of that is it will improve his belief,” Arsene Wenger revealed after his call-up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Wednesday’s friendly in Sweden. A man of the match performance against Chelsea and an impressive showing against Manchester City have certainly boosted his profile, as well as his confidence.
Having represented Finland at youth level, Jenkinson only received international clearance to represent England on Wednesday morning and replaced Glen Johnson in the 74th minute. England were leading at the time and his brief cameo corresponded with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late three-goal assault, but Jenkinson was not culpable for England’s collapse. Unlike his Arsenal introduction, he did not look out of his depth this time.
Jenkinson’s international debut arrived just two years after his senior debut, a substitute appearance for Eastbourne Borough against Forest Green Rovers, during a spell on loan from Charlton in November 2010. His manager during this spell, Garry Wilson, has since revealed to Goal that he was impressed by Jenkinson’s character and determination. “He was quiet but also very intense. Intense in terms of that he was really desperate to do well,” Wilson explained. “He was quite grateful and courteous to thank us for the opportunity to play competitive football. I’m delighted for the boy because I know how much it will mean to him.”
Jenkinson is likely to start on the bench for Saturday’s north London derby, where he will offer a reliable, committed option if required. Arsenal will hope that Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all follow his example by extending their existing deals to form a strong English presence throughout the side. With disillusioned fans growing increasingly impatient with high prices and the annual departure of their star performers, it is essential that the club stems the haemorrhage of talent.
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