Carl Jenkinson looks set to leave Arsenal this season after being totally excluded from the Arsenal first team since he took a battering on Social Media after the game against Manchester United back in November.
While most fans wanted him to succeed at Arsenal it seems like he just didn’t have it in him to make the step up at his boyhood club.
The right-back, who signed from Charlton Athletic in 2011, never made any secret of the fact that he and his whole family were avid Arsenal supporters and always had been.
From his Arsenal-themed bedroom to the engraved stone Jenks had made for his grandfather outside the Emirates, the man is a Gooner at heart and always will be.
— Photos of Football (@photosofootball) January 9, 2015
Jenks’ genuine love for the club turned him into a fan favourite instantly, despite one of his first games being that 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, in which he was sent off.
He was just like one of us and I wouldn’t bet against seeing him in the stands, even after he’s inevitably left.
This is beautiful. Carl Jenkinson wasn't good enough, but he was Arsenal through and through. Top lad, wish him all the best in the future. pic.twitter.com/AXIyl1vf7M
— Arsenaloholic (@ArsenalohoIic) January 16, 2017
The issue is, Jenks just isn’t good enough to play for Arsenal.
During his time at Arsenal, he only managed 62 appearances and never featured more than 14 times in one Premier League season. However, with Bacary Sagna in the starting lineup, most of us made peace with the fact that we’d probably only really see him in cup games.
It’s fine, we thought, he’s only young, he’ll come good soon.
He also didn’t have the best luck with injuries, hurting his knee and back during his first season in north London. Therefore, we cut him more slack then we probably would have if he hadn’t been a massive Gooner.
In 2014, Jenks was loaned out to West Ham. During the 2014/15 season, he became first choice right-back and made 36 appearances (32 league, four FA Cup) and managed two assists. As Arsenal fans, we watched on eagerly, urging Carl Jenkinson to become a world class, amazing right-back. The right-back we needed to replace Sagna, who’d signed for Manchester City that summer.
Jenks’ second loan spell with the Hammers wasn’t quite as positive. His performances went down hill, the West Ham fans began to turn on him and, after just 20 Premier League appearances, he injured his knee cruciate ligament against Manchester City.
The 24-year-old returned to Arsenal to begin his rehabilitation and made his first appearance for the senior team against Reading in the EFL Cup in front of the home ground. He put in a decent enough performance and, once again, the Arsenal fans began dreaming about him becoming a great right-back.
However, while he was away, a certain young Spaniard had risen up the ranks and was everything we wanted in a right-back. Hector Bellerin.
With Bellerin signing a new long-term deal and, quite rightly, becoming Arsene Wenger’s first choice full-back, it became difficult to see where Jenks would fit in, especially since he was apparently having confidence issues, which led to Wenger dropping him from the squad entirely.
“He has lost confidence,” Wenger said back in December. “The Jenkinson you see at the moment is the Jenkinson who can play but is not completely Jenkinson because he has no confidence. That will come back. He will be in and out and, suddenly, after one or two months, he will make the step and play. It is natural and very difficult. Today it is even more difficult because he gets quickly hammered by everybody on social media. I hope he doesn’t read all that and focuses on his game.”
Finally, Arsenal fans began to realise that we were trying to will Jenkinson into becoming a player he wasn’t. He isn’t good enough for Arsenal and, to be honest, it sucks.
There aren’t many players the fans have wanted to succeed so much.
For so long, I stood by the boss’ decision not to sell him because I desperately wanted him to come good. I wanted the fairy tale to have a happy ending. I wanted it almost as much as he did. However, he just isn’t the world class right-back we wanted. Bellerin is.
With game time somewhere else, perhaps Jenks can become a decent right-back; maybe even a good one. But Arsenal, despite his love of the club, isn’t the right place for him and maybe never was.
Saying this, when he does eventually leave for his new club, no doubt with a tear in his eye and a more-than-fleeting glance back at what might have been, I hope he does remember his time with the club he loves as positive.
He was Arsenal through-and-through and got the chance to play – and score – for the club he supports. He’s luckier than most.
For once I feel that the saying ‘once a Gunner, always a Gunner’ truly applies.