Finding his footing

Carl Jenkinson has started to repay Arsene Wenger for the faith he has shown in him, producing some impressive displays in the EPL and the UEFA Champions League. By Sean Gallagher.

Carl Jenkinson looked out of his depth when he first arrived at Arsenal — what a difference a year makes.

Eyebrows were raised when the young full-back broke straight into the Gunners’ first team following his surprise move from Charlton last summer. Jenkinson had only played a handful of games for the Addicks in League One and it came as no surprise that he initially struggled to make the step up to the English Premier League.

But 12 months on Jenkinson has started to repay Arsene Wenger for the faith he has shown in him, producing some impressive displays in the EPL and the UEFA Champions League.

The 20-year-old defender has been ever-present for the Gunners so far this season and his form has caught the eye of England boss Roy Hodgson. Jenkinson has represented both the Three Lions and Finland in youth internationals, but he has pledged his allegiance to England and was invited to train with the senior squad ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Poland last week.

Hodgson said: “We had a problem with Kyle (Walker) and wanted a full complement in our training session, so we called Carl up. He was in my thoughts anyway. I invited him to train with us knowing full well he couldn’t take part in this game and that gave me the opportunity to sit with him and talk.

“I don’t want to trick him to play for England. But he had to make a decision because we’re very interested in him even if the competition is tougher to get him into the England team rather than the Finland team.

“He made it very clear he wanted to play in England. We are now making overtures to FIFA to try and make certain we can have him as an England player.”

England coach Gary Neville is also pleased that Jenkinson has opted to play for his country of birth. “Carl Jenkinson has improved immeasurably over the last 12 months”, Neville told Talksport. “It was very difficult for him at the start of his Arsenal career last year because of the changes in the defence — there was never a settled defence for him to perform in.

“But you look at the way he’s performing now and he’s been magnificent for Arsenal in the early stages of the season. He’s definitely someone who is being watched continuously...he’s definitely catching the eye.”

Jenkinson, a lifelong Gunners fan, had only featured eight times for Charlton before moving to the Emirates Stadium but Wenger was impressed with what he saw.

After a shaky start to his Arsenal career, disrupted further after a three month injury lay-off, Jenkinson has looked a different player this season and Wenger faces a selection dilemma when Bacary Sagna returns from injury.

The young right-back said: “You're always going to have downs in football, but at the same time, you’re always going to have ups as well and I’ve just tried to not take the downs too personally and just concentrate on my own game and respond.

“I feel comfortable at this level now. I think acclimatised you could say. I just want to push on from now and hopefully keep going as I'm going.”

Wenger has brought an array of exciting young players to Arsenal during his time at the club and Jenkinson looks to be another shrewd signing.

* * * FACTFILE THE PLAYER: Carl Jenkinson. POSITION: Defender CLUB: Arsenal DOB: 08/02/1992 CLUB APPEARANCES: 37 GOALS: 0

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Coming off the bench to make his Arsenal debut against Udinese in the UEFA Champions League.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Being sent off in only his third game for Arsenal as they were thrashed 8-2 by Manchester United last season.

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