Category Archives: Carl Jenkinson

With Chambers, Arsenal pile on to Southampton’s misery…

I don’t know what to think at this point. I take the wife out to celebrate her birthday and set aside Arsenal (my, er, second love) and come back to find out that, not only have we not yet signed Ospina or Khedira, but that we’re apparently all-in for Calum Chambers, a 19-year old right-back from Southampton. We just signed Debuchy, did we not? Are we not therefore set at the position, what with a 28-year old, established international player, supported by a competent if not compelling 22-year old Gunner and Gooner? What’s more, we have other, more-pressing priorities, such as the already-alluded-to keeper and defensive-midfield positions. What, then, are we to make of this apparent raid of the Saints?

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I root for the underdog (a relative term, at times…). For the better part of the last two decades, I have rooted for a club that has comported itself with dignity and restraint, all the more so in the face of the craven, covetous, competition it has faced from Chelsea and Man City, and (to a lesser extent) Man U and Liverpool. I love anyone who punches above his or her weight, and that does mean that I have a soft spot of sorts for Southampton. It’s not just underdogs, however. They gotta bring moxie, gumption, cojones. Southampton, Swansea, and Everton, to name a few, prove the old adage, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Before we continue, I have to condemn dog-fighting. Barbaric practice. The whole point of sport, after all, is to afford civilized cultures a non-lethal method for resolving disputes. One side pits its most athletic and determined against the other side, and a winner is determined not on fatalities but on skill. Dog-fighting, like war itself, reverts us to more-base instincts without offering any retreat or surrender, indulging our worst instincts and tendencies instead of elevating us. Apologies for betting too poetic.

Back to the business at hand. As I understand it, we’ve all but signed 19-year old Calum Chambers from Southampton for £12m. If true, we’ve slapped in the face not one but two other right-backs, one of them Debuchy, who was brought in for a similar fee despite having proven himself for club and country, and the other Jenkinson, a dyed-in-the-wool Gooner who is also a Gunner. Color me confused. Yes, I know that there are rumors of a loan-deal for Jenkinson, with West Ham an apparent front-runner. And yes, I am fully aware of the man’s deficiencies. It’s also clear that West Ham could use a young, aspiring right-back to step in for their currently ageing and somewhat-inadequate duo. Still, for as much as I may worry about how these rumors may affect Corporal Jenkinson, I can’t help but worry over larger issues.

Southampton, like Arsenal, is renowned for developing young talent. However, they suffer all too often the bitter disappointment of seeing their best and brightest depart for greener pastures. Where might they be with Walcott, Bale, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaw, Lallana, and Lambert, among others, still in the squad? We might have to add to this list Chambers, Rodriguez, Lovren, and Schneiderlin, among others. For as much as we might covet one or two of these players, we rend garments and punch dry-wall over the departure of our own starlets, and so we have to acknowledge the same suffering when it’s inflicted on others.

After all, it’s not as if the Saints practice a defensive, cynical, or vindictive style, as other clubs so often do. Go into a match against Stoke or Sunderland or Tottenham, and you know that there will be fouls and cautions from here to Timbuktu. The Saints, among a select few others, at least have tried to play a more-attractive, forward-thinking kind of football based on possession, skill, and technique, and fair play to them for doing so with players who, by and large, are still learning the finer points of the game and are in the earliest stages of their careers.

After all, when you’re a manager and you see that your opposition clearly out-classes you, it’s damned-tempting to tell the lads to defend deep and look to hit on a quick counter. Southampton don’t do that. They look to take the game by the scruff, regardless of whom they face. There’s something in that for us to learn from. It’d be a pity if we only learn it by poaching their players from them…

Bienvenue, Mathieu Debuchy, à Arsenal!

It’s official—Mathieu Debuchy has joined Arsenal. After a long courting, which happened in the shadows cast by the consummation of the Alexis Sánchez and the apparent pursuit of Sami Khedira, we’ve made our second significant signing of the summer—and it’s still the middle of July. At this rate, we’ll no doubt make two or three more signings, topped by a glut of 17 more signings on deadline day. More seriously, it seems like we’re addressing needs in order of importance: Sánchez will challenge, replace, and play alongside Giroud up top, and we now have a right-back to replace the departed Bacary Sagna. As discussed we here, there are ways to think of Debuchy as an upgrade in some ways on Sagna…

…not to mention that we keep Ludivine in the squad as well. Okay, not that Ludivine, but a Ludivine nonetheless. The arrival of Ludivine Debuchy and her husband should strengthen the squad in important ways. For those who lusted after Serge Aurier, we can content ourselves in the knowledge that we’re getting an experienced international with deep familiarity with the Prem. He may not be as sexy as Aurier, but he’s arguably a better fit for our needs. He may not be available to face Boreham Wood on Saturday, but he’ll likely pop up for the Emirates Cup. Dandy.

Speaking of the signing, Arsène had the following to say:

We are delighted to welcome Mathieu Debuchy to Arsenal Football Club. He has shown he can perform at the highest level with his club sides and also for France. He is a quality defender who has good Premier League experience and I’m confident he will fit in very well with us.

Indeed, he has been one of Newcastle’s strongest and best players, and his addition to Arsenal bodes well for our defense now and in the future. At 28, he’s still got quite a bit in the tank, but he’s not so young that Jenkinson should worry. In fact, the signing may mean that Jenkinson stays with Arsenal rather than going out on loan. Whereas the addition of Aurier might have meant the end of Jenkinson’s time with Arsenal, Debuchy looks to be a shrewd, short-term signing who can deliver for another three or four years while handing the reins over to Jenkinson—or until Jenkinson wrests the reins from him. We’ll take a closer look at what Debuchy’s signing means later.

For now, enjoy the fact that we’re on a roll in this transfer-window, having added two players already. The details around Debuchy’s deal haven’t been released yet, but the deal probably cost us £12m. On the subject of numbers, the more-shocking one may just be that Debuchy will wear #2. Why should this shock? It means that we’re starting to get players to wear proper squad numbers! Will wonders never cease…

Parting with Sagna would be such sweet sorrow…

It’s far from official, but all indications are that Bacary Sagna has played his last match for Arsenal. In his own words, he has said, “there’s a 90 per cent chance I will leave and 10 per cent that I will stay. I have been asking myself that question [about leaving Arsenal] for a long time, and it’s the time for a new challenge.” That, more than any suggestion of an offer from Man City, seems to confirm in my mind that Sagna has left. To say that he seeks a “new challenge” goes beyond any argy-bargy over pay or duration; no, it’s a bit of a euphemism for saying he’s done with Arsenal. Still, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. By contrast with other high-profile departures, Sagna’s (should it come to pass), would feel like a bittersweet parting rather than a rancorous break-up. To me, he’s been consummate, diligent, dedicated. If Man City or PSG want to give the man a golden parachute, I’ll understand.

Is this really the only picture available of Sagna and Rice?

As one of Arsenal’s longest-serving, and longest-suffering, soldiers, Sagna has endured along with so many of us the trophy-drought. Having joined the club in 2007, he missed the glorious early years of Arsène’s reign, perhaps believing that he’d joined a club that would continue to deliver and build upon recent glories. Instead, he committed to a club that had just entered a bit of a swoon, a swoon that would last nearly a decade, casting a long shadow over his own career as he, among several others, might have been branded as a lost generation of players known more for futility and catastrophe than for success and achievement.

Along the way, however, Sagna has very nearly entered the pantheon of Arsenal’s best players. He may very rank as its best right-back ever. If he’s not the best, he’s certainly up there. After all he’s done for Arsenal, all that he represents, it’s hard to identify another player who embodies the spirit of this club more than Sagna does. The contrast between him and the man who wore the #3 could not be more stark, nor could the gulf in symbolism be wider.

Before Sagna took the #3, it belonged to Ashley Cole, a very, very good left-back who unfortunately stands as the prosecution’s key witness in the deterioration of character and commitment in modern football. Having played with the Invincibles, Cole might have become an out-and-out legend had he stayed at Arsenal. Instead, well, we all know what happened. He leapt at the first opportunity to leave (according to some reports, he may have been leaping before the opportunity officially presented itself). He’s since gone on to all sorts of honours while being paid quite handsomely for his efforts. Feh.

By contrast, Sagna’s conducted himself with a sense of dignity and of honour that mercenaries like Cole just can’t fathom. Year after year, season after season, Sagna has labored and toiled without reward save that of the ethereal, “priceless” variety—no trophies, no eye-popping wage-packets—just the notion that he’s a good soldier. Old school. A throw-back. He’s earned a certain status ’round these parts for his dedication, whether it’s twice breaking a leg and coming back each time, or whether it’s for a thunderous headed goal in a North London derby or for countless tackles, interceptions, and clearances. What other right-back could provide the width going forward and the reliability getting back that Sagna has (while covering the ground that teammates like Walcott, Squillaci, Djourou, and others struggled to cover)? The man has been magnificent at times, dominant in stretches, and tenacious throughout.

In the past, I’ve suggested that Arsenal offer him a balloon-payout, a weekly salary that would keep him at the club until his retirement, overpaying him now in acknowledgement of his years of service (and potential underpaying him in years past). Other players who have left have forfeited their status at the club and become persona non grata. Sagna, though he may yet leave for a Manchester club, looks to do so on different terms, thereby preserving if not solidifying his status among the Gooner nation. If he does leave, we’ll look on it as the inevitable, unfortunate price of paying for modern football, but such a parting shouldn’t be poisoned as others have.

We’ve just won the FA Cup, one of the most-storied pieces of silverware in Europe. For as much as we might hope that the victory might herald a new age in which more and more such silverware is won, let it be, in the case of Sagna, a fitting and fond farewell. Others have left in naked ambition. Sagna, bless the man, dug in, put his shoulder to the wheel, and finished the job he signed on for. Along the way, he’s earned a special place in my heart. His tenacity, his loyalty, his class have set a standard that few can rise to. I understand that Carl Jenkinson strives for that standard already, and I certainly hope he achieves it. He’s had some time to learn from one of the best.

We’ve suffered some fools over the last decade, and we’re better for having lost them sooner rather than later. In Sagna, however, we’ve enjoyed a class-act through and through. May he ease into retirement somewhere in France, comforted by another trophy or two, the respect of Gooners, and, of course, Ludivine. He’s fought hard to earn it.

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Norwich 0-2 Arsenal: Jenkinson gets a pornogol!

Just when you thought a goal couldn’t be more sublime, more stunning, more scintillating than the one that Jack Wilshere delivered against Norwich back in October, along comes no less than Carl Jenkinson to go one better. In a sequence similar to the one that saw Cazorla, Giroud, and Wilshere team up for a breath-taking sequence of touches, Jenkinson scored his first-ever goal for Arsenal and celebrated in a style befitting the moment. Okay, so it wasn’t quite at the same level, coming as it did after Podolski’s shot squibbed through a defender’s legs before falling to Jenkinson’s feet, and no, his finish may have lacked the cool nonchalance of Wilsheres, butdammit—he scored. Carl Jenkinson, he of the left foot that’s good for little more than standing on, scored. Anyone who tells you it matters little in a match in which both squads’ positions were settled and that the goal therefore doesn’t matter in the grand scheme can take a flying leap.

They’re the kind of people who, when sitting next to you as you’re about to stuff your face with something gooey, delectable, and loaded with calories ask (in a voice that clearly indicates that it’s not a question forthcoming but an accusation, indictment, and verdict), “are you really going to eat that?” Prigs. There’s a special place in hell for the likes of them, and it’s full of overcooked broccoli and joyless, dispassionate music, the kind that you can only clap for politely when it’s over.

We’ll have none of that here, thank you very much. Carl’s goal may have lacked the nuanced beauty of Wilshere’s, and it may have had little impact on our season or even the match in which it occurred, but this here is an Arsenal man through and through. His celebration tells you all that you need to know about why the goal matters. The man is exultant. Overcome. Orgasmic. What the finish itself lacked for style, the follow-up delivered for passion. On his face is pure joy, divested entirely from how the goal might actually matter. It’s an everyman’s goal. When each of us dreams of playing for Arsenal, dreams of scoring for Arsenal, we probably conjure up something more similar to Ramsey’s coolly delivered volley, or Wilshere’s pornogol. The reality is much closer to Jenkinson’s. For the vast majority of us, if some bizarre series of unfortunate events led to us getting a call-up, this the goal we would score.

So much the better, I say. Who among us could deliver a volley like Ramsey’s or a perfectly-weighted pass like Özil? No one, unless they’re lying or lucky—and, by lucky, I mean that they got three wishes, used each wish to wish for 1,000 more wishes, then condensed those 3,000 into one wish again, and wished for the ability to score or pass like that.

If I’m implying that Jenkinson himself may lack the quality to play in this squad—after all, I’m equating him with the rest of us—so be it. There are open and nagging questions about his ability to play for Arsenal. Some will seize on those questions to nag and gnaw away. I prefer to see it as a potential break-through. He’s come close on a number of occasions only to see other, more-illustrious teammates seize the moment. For him to finally make good on offense is a good thing even if he’s still a bit raw. At 22, he’s made just 47 appearances for Arsenal and is only a few years removed from League One play. There’s room to grow. The fall-off from Sagna to him is of course massive, and one measly goal does little to close that gap, but its timing could hardly be better. With the FA Cup final to play, Jenkinson should see the opportunity that presents itself. Yes, he’s scored, but there’s more to being a right-back than scoring, of course. He’s made the most of his chance on the day. Can he use the summer to prove that there’s more to him than that? The possibilities for inspiration and motivation know no end.

For whoever we might sign—let’s be clear, we’re going to need two right-backs, no matter how much Jenkinson develops over the summer—Jenkinson knows and is Arsenal. He’s followed the club since he was a lad, and he’s made good on a childhood dream that many of us share. He might not ever become the kind of right-back that we’ll remember through the ages, but, for this one, brief moment, he’s shown us what it’s like to live the dream.

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Sagna’s swan-song…or has it already been sung?

What an odd, empty Saturday. No Prem matches to pass the time. In their absence, I caught up on some thumb-twiddling and mumbelty-peg while my offspring begged me to interact with them. Without any proper football to watch, however, and with Sunday’ clash with Norwich lacking any real drama beyond Szczesny’s quest for a Golden Glove, it’s hard to summon the requisite energy. The match feels more like a friendly, maybe even a Sunday league game. At each end, it’s likely that we’ll see both squads rotate pretty heavily, further fueling the idea that its outcome matters little if at all. Off-the-pitch issues rise to the surface, chief among them the increasing likelihood that Bacary Sagna will leave this summer if his own words are to be believed.

PSG? It’s a little bit that way. East of here.

In fact, we may have seen the last of Sagna already unless Carl Jenkinson is otherwise unfit or unavailable. Sagna did well against West Brom, but that might be his swan-song. Without trying to sound disloyal or callous, if he’s already preparing for his next move, then so too should we. He certainly speaks like a man with more than one foot out the door:

I am out of contract, as everyone knows. I still consider myself as an Arsenal player at present. But actually we had a small problem to agree and I do not think [I will] stay at Arsenal at the end of the season.

It’s a pity that he and the club couldn’t agree to terms, as I would have liked very much to see him see out his career at Arsenal. He’s among the longest-serving members of the squad, and his experience and understanding of Arsenal, the Prem, and the position would make him a valuable mentor to Jenkinson and whoever else might be brought in (Aurier?). Still, it’s hard to refute or criticize his apparent desire for one last, large contract, not to mention a crack at silverware. It is hard to stomach his apparent interest in moving to league-rival. Yes, Man City, can give him the pay-rise he seeks and likely silverware as well, but he’d become a squad-player, sitting behind Zabaleta week in and week out, and that’s a demotion that just doesn’t sit well with me. I’d much rather play than watch. Then again, I never won anything as a player, so maybe I’m just making a virtue of necessity.

If Sagna’s set on leaving, well, we might as well say our fare-wells. Jenkinson, you’re up.

If nothing else, starting Jenkinson avoids the awkwardness of Sagna relive the re-break of his leg, which occurred last May when Norwich’s Bradley Johnson appeared to stomp it. Sagna was able to get up to rejoin play, but when he went to trap the ball down, he immediately collapsed, holding that same right leg. Whether Johnson stomped him accidentally or deliberately is another question for another day. Before that day arrives, it seems like the best thing to do is to hand the position over to Jenkinson. He’ll become our right-back, if only by default, unless and until we can bring in another. He may not be good enough to our full-time, first-choice right-back but has done tolerably well when called upon. If nothing else, the match is so low-stakes that little can go wrong. If he acquits himself, splendid. If he flounders, all the more reason to target a right-back in the summer window.

Back to Sagna. After all, there is one last match to play: the FA Cup final. Does Sagna play? On one hand, it might be a fitting send-off; should we win, it would provide a fine capstone to a very good, at-times great, career. Then again, is it churlish to suggest that his imminent departure should prevent him from fully sharing in the spoils? It’s not as if he’s pulling a Nasri. Even after he leaves, he’ll be remembered fondly for his years of toil. However, ambivalence best-describes my feelings here. Unlike Fabianski, who will also likely leave this summer, Sagna has been the number-one player at his position for almost the entirety of his time here. Fabianski, on the other hand, has had to watch as Szczesny has eclipsed him for club and country. I have no qualms with him playing the FA Cup final. For better or worse, it’s become “his” competition. With Sagna, however, I’m not sure where I stand. Would winning the FA Cup commemorate Sagna’s seven years of service, or should it announce the arrival of Jenkinson’s tenure?

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