24 May 2013

I ♥ Carl Jenkinson, Volume II

I hate most improved player awards. Talk about a slap in the face, or at least a back-handed compliment: "you were so terrible last year that marginal improvements have earned you this little trophy. We'll applaud politely for a moment before passing out the awards that actually matter"[smattering of applause]. However, as I was wrestling with a "player of the year" award, I found myself on the horns of a different dilemma--an award like that insults every other member of the squad, who performances do after all make that indvidual's performance possible. Football is, after all, a team sport, and for as skilled as any one player is, his success depends immensely on how well his teammates perform. I'll save you the graduate thesis and get back to the order of the day.

Hold still, Mikel; I may nutmeg thee. Cole, I shall dispatch you forthwith.
Most of the attention has gone to the headline-stealers like Cazorla who did dazzle us week in and week out, whether it was a goal or a dribble or a tackle, or the quiet, consistent ones like Arteta who seem to play at the same level of consistency week after week after week. While I'm not going to go out on a limb to proclaim anyone as "player of the year" or "most improved", and I'm not going to use the term "break-out season", I do want to hail a player who has quietly emerged and is starting to come into his own right as it seems we're going to need him now more than ever: one Carl Jenkinson. With Sagna struggling to regain his form after twice breaking his leg and with rumors of an imminent exit swirling, Carl may become our first-choice right-back sooner rather than later. Absent a move for another right-back over the summer, he may claim the position if only by default. Thankfully, then, the deer in the headlights who was so out of depth in his first season has morphed into a more confident and more capable player. He may not inspire fear in opposing forwards just yet, but he has come far enough to stop them from salivating as they so often did last season.

According to whoscored.com's statistics, after all, his overall rating has grown from 6.16 to 6.71, the largest increase of anyone on the squad (yes, I know that having a low rating makes it easier to grow). He's done so by doubling up on almost every positive statistic while halving the negative ones. Tackles up 1.7 to 2.3 per game. Interceptions up 0.3 to 0.6. Clearances up from 1.4 to 2.4. While these are solid improvements, the raw numbers are still modest enough not to get anyone very excited. However, after a first season that was positively slap-stick at times, Jenkinson seems to have decided that he can make it in the Prem and what's more, he can make it in the Prem with Arsenal. What might his numbers look like if he had featured more over the last three months when the Koscielny-Mertesacker pairing strengthened the defense? Would Jenkinson be pushing closer to a rating of seven? It's entirely possible.

It's going to be a while yet before he can fully and thoroughly assert himself with authority. Due to his youth and boyishness, he just doesn't seem very intimidating. Maybe he should leave behind the clean quiff, avoid the barber altogether over the summer, and return in August with more of a Neanderthal shag.

extolled his emergence earlier in the season, ironically just days after his last appearance. Sagna seems to have reclaimed his starting role at Jenkinson's expense. Whether is an attempt on Arsène's part to placate the man or boost his value going into the summer is something to explore at another time. For now, let's raise a toast to Mr. Jenkinson, who is growing into a right-back whom we can trust and who seems to love this club as much as we do. I know that players say things without meaning it all the time, but the lad has seen fit to say, "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'm willing to take that at face value, and if he continues the trajectory that he's on, he will make that mark sooner rather than later.