With the close season barely in its infancy and many of the top Premiership clubs already waving astronomical cheques in the hope of securing the cream of emerging Premiership talent, a familiar story is evolving at the Emirates. Once again, Arsene Wenger speculates that the same task can be attained at a fraction of the cost for Arsenal.
In the Premiership equivalent of Bargain Hunt, Wenger has lured the services of Charlton’s out of contract defender Carl Jenkinson for a fee likely to begin at a few hundred thousand, potentially rising to the million-plus level if the player goes on to win the World Cup, Eurovision Song Contest and a Nobel Peace prize.
Plucking youngsters from the youth squads and first-team fringes of the lower divisions is becoming an emerging trend in recent years. With the requirement to plug financial short-falls greater than ever, the days of a lower division club offloading its star player is increasingly being replaced by clubs cashing in on their most promising youngster. For the selling club, it is a chance to raise revenue without impacting on their first team, while for the buying club it operates a cheaper risk policy that is seen as worth undertaking. The bottom line is a club like Arsenal can take a risk on ten Carl Jenkinson’s, and if just one of them pays off and becomes a first-team regular, the approach would have paid its way.
Will Jenkinson prove to be the one? Certainly what we have seen at Charlton would strongly suggest a cautious approach that is unlikely to pay dividends in the near future. If Arsenal fans are expecting a young full back to be challenging Sagna and Clichy for a shirt this coming season, then temper those expectations now.
A good player he undoubtedly will become, but top four clubs are looking for potential great ones. Jenkinson still has a fair journey ahead of him before he can be considered in that potential category
The evidence so far suggests that this is not so much a step-up for the player, more a hop, skip and jump to the extent Phillips Idowu will need to perform to secure gold at next year’s Olympics.
Jenkinson possesses many of the qualities in his locker that Arsenal traditionally profile in a player; a good touch, technique and understanding of the game, a willingness to receive and keep the ball, and an adaptability to play anywhere across the back line. He does however lack the athleticism, brawn and aggression that will probably be needed if he is to vault from a promising young player to a top level defender in the next couple of years.
Little has gone right for Arsenal in recent times, and it is worth noting that Jenkinson may prove a further hoodoo if his Charlton story is anything to go by. Nine appearances for the Addicks heralded a solitary point, seven league defeats and an inevitable cup exit to Brentford. His earlier spell on loan at Eastbourne Borough was only marginally less fruitless, with two draws and two defeats. In his thirteen senior appearances, Jenkinson is yet to taste victory, though it is possibly fairer to say that his unhealthy back catalogue reflects far more the free-falling disaster that Charlton have become rather than the individual merits of the player.
The 19-year old Finnish U21 has come a long way in a short space of time. Just seven months ago he was featuring on loan in the Conference South for Eastbourne Borough, and effortlessly made the transition to League One, quietly impressing with efficient subtlety rather in a bold statement of outstanding quality.
A good player he undoubtedly will become, but top four clubs are looking for potential great ones. Jenkinson still has a fair journey ahead of him before he can be considered in that potential category. If the next twelve months brings a successful loan spell at Championship level, playing consistent, competitive first-team football, then that should be seen now as a realistic benchmark.
And I’m sure a victory at some stage would probably be appreciated.
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