Arsenal Focus - Jenkinson comes of age on the big stage
Being thrown in at the deep end was an understatement. In August 2011, at the age of just 19, newly-recruited Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson was hurled into the lion's den that is the Champions League because of an injury to Bacary Sagna. Up until that point, his footballing experience was confined to short spells at non-league Eastbourne Borough and Welling United, along with a handful of appearances at third tier Charlton Athletic. He had to learn his trade on the job.
As it happens, Jenkinson put in two competent displays against Udinese in that Champions League tie, helping the Gunners to qualify for the group stages. However, hard times were to follow. His learning curve steepened a couple of weeks later as he was bamboozled and then sent off in an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of a rampant Manchester United. The right-back went on to make 13 appearances for Arsenal last season - but the Emirates Stadium faithful remained to be fully convinced by his defensive capabilities.
But on Sunday Jenkinson put in one of the finest full-back performances that the Premier League has seen so far this season to help tame the current champions Manchester City on their own turf. City manager Roberto Mancini included flying wide man Scott Sinclair in his starting XI in what could have been interpreted as an attempt to exploit the perceived weaknesses of Jenkinson. But the ineffective Sinclair was hauled off at half-time and the hard-working Jenkinson shone to help the Gunners to a 1-1 draw.
A year and a half ago, Jenkinson was yet to properly force his way into the Charlton first team picture. Arsene Wenger clearly saw something in the Harlow-born defender, who has represented both England and Finland at youth level, and shelled out a fee believed to be in the region of £1m for him. The faith which Wenger showed looks set to be repaid with Jenkinson part of a now-solid Arsenal defence along with fellow in-form Englishman Kieran Gibbs.
Jenkinson is now keen to establish himself as a fixture in Wenger's starting line-up on a more long-term basis. Speaking to the official Arsenal website, he said: “My ambition for my whole career is to play for this football club. I want to be good enough and make my mark here. I won't be happy until I'm playing week-in, week-out. That's what I want to achieve.”
But where does this leave Sagna? The experienced Frenchman is nearing match fitness having recovered from the broken leg which he suffered at the back end of last season. However, Jenkinson's solid form coupled with Sagna's unhappiness at recent departures from North London could threaten his Arsenal future.
The 29-year-old's contract runs out in summer 2014 and, with Arsenal having been criticised for letting contracts run down too far in recent times, they made decide to cash in and look forward to a backline in which Jenkinson is a fixture.
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