Arsenal, despite their recent defeat at the hands of Chelsea, had a pretty decent start to the season so far. Despite old frailties coming back to haunt them at The Emirates in Saturday’s early afternoon fixture there is little doubt that their defensive ability has increased over the summer.
Whether that is down to Steve Bould or not is one thing, I am sure it helps, but also the stability that has been brought to the back-four must be a massively beneficial factor.
Kieran Gibbs has excelled at left-back while Thomas Vermaelen has also looked impressive, the only blip being Laurent Koscielny who surprisingly replaced the previously imperious Per Mertesacker, perhaps to offer more mobility against Chelsea’s attacking trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata. But the man-of-the-match in this fixture was Carl Jenkinson, who is looking more and more like a Premier League regular in the making.
Since taking over from Bacary Sagna at the right-back position the boyhood Arsenal fan has been superb and his gallivanting performance against Chelsea was a testament to this, as he consistently pushed Ashley Cole deeper into retreat with his powerful forward play.
It is form like this that has seen him linked to the England squad for their next round of fixtures, with Glen Johnson suspended and Martin Kelly out injured the call-up makes sense; not to mention to prevent him representing Finland, the country of his mother’s birth that he has represented at under-21 level.
But is right-back his definitive position?
He has shifted along in his career to date, not for Arsenal, but at Charlton and in the youth system he has played the centre-back role. His physical presence is certainly built for the position, standing around 6ft 2ins tall he would trump Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny in the height section of a Top Trumps clash (even if by a few inches).
Physicality of course isn’t everything, but Jenkinson reads the game well also, while he is combative in the air and not afraid to stick in a tackle. Players have shifted from the wider position into the central role before, Paolo Maldini perhaps the greatest exponent of this positional dexterity.
Then of course there is the mental capacity to play in a role with a better resolution spotlight and exposure to blame. However Arsenal must believe in his mental attitude to some degree, he even accompanied Arsene Wenger to the Champions League press conference this week.
As a centre-half could be the eventual future of this Arsenal prodigy, his athleticism and technique also fit the bill of the modern day centre-half. His pace would be a formidable recovery tool and alongside Thomas Vermaelen he could form an incredible partnership.
So could Carl Jenkinson evolve into a centre-half at Arsenal?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald