Arsenal: Why Carl Jenkinson Has Been the EPL's Most Improved Player

Max TowleAnalyst IOctober 10, 2012

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Carl Jenkinson of Arsenal warms up during an Arsenal training session ahead of the Uefa Champions League Group B match between Arsenal and Olympiacosat London Colney on October 2, 2012 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The rise and rise of Arsenal's Carl Jenkinson has slipped by mostly unnoticed amidst the emergence of new club heroes Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. But the 20-year-old has been absolutely terrific in the right-back role monopolised by Bacary Sagna in recent years.

He has shown a steady excellence in his defensive positioning, whilst providing a marauding threat down the right flank to boost a Steve Bould-inspired, tactically-efficient midfield.

And though he may not feature in many of the media's so called "team of the week," rest assured, his constant improvement and quiet dedication has not gone ignored in north London.

There are few players I'm prepared to wax lyrical about in the Premier League and there's often little rhyme or reason behind my motivation for doing so.

But in Jenkinson's case, when I once may have been called "hasty" or "premature," compliments aimed in his direction are now fully deserved.

He is no longer a player who carries the tag of "potential"—a heavy burden that only really suggests that he is not there yet—but a fully-fledged first-teamer shining while operating in perhaps the most unfashionable position in the game.

Jenkinson's rival, Bacary Sagna, has even cottoned on, recently revealing that he believed "he is going to be one of the best" (via The Sun).

"Going to be?" If we're talking from just within Britain, who of his peers have been better these past two months? Branislav Ivanovic? Glen Johnson? Debatable in both cases.

For the longest time, when one thought of Jenkinson, the image of a sullen-faced, out-of-his-depth teenager shown red at Old Trafford amidst the turmoil of an 8-2 defeat immediately sprung to mind.

Run ragged by a carnivorous Manchester United side with the scent of blood in their nostrils, the innocence of the baby-faced Jenkinson was their natural target.

It was a sorry sight for the proud fan who had had posters of Highbury legends adorning his walls as a boy—a youngster besotted with the likes of Henry and Pires and owner of more club memorabilia than even the most die-hard of supporters.

But his days of playing the role of victim are long over.

A determined workhorse, the Essex lad fights hard to improve, not only on Saturdays, but every day in training under the noses of Arsene Wenger and Bould.

He is the last to request media duties after games; a quiet soul who'd rather go home and watch "Match of the Day" than boast of his fine displays to Garth Crooks.

England national team coach Gary Neville revealed to TalkSport Wednesday that officials at the highest level were indeed paying close attention (h/t

"England have good options at right-back with Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker, and others as well, but he's definitely someone who is being watched continuously; he's definitely catching the eye."

With Jenkinson having already represented Finland, the home of his mother, at youth levels, it would be advisable to blood him for the Three Lions sooner rather than later.

Of course, with the impending return of Sagna from injury, it remains to be seen whether or not his meteoric rise will continue.

But for a player who has given so much in the season's early goings to be so suddenly dropped, in my view, would be horribly unfair.

No matter how talented Sagna is, Jenkinson must not be treated in such a way—kept for sporadic Champions League matches and Capitol One Cup games.

Because rest assured, he has been the most improved player in the country. Whether or not he's allowed to keep improving is a question that will inevitably be answered by Wenger in the coming weeks.


What have you made of Carl Jenkinson's early season form? Would an England call-up be fair?

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