He once went into battle for non-leagues outfit Eastbourne Borough and Welling United during short loan stints at then parent club Charlton Athletic. These days you can find Carl Jenkinson in and around the Arsenal squad rubbing shoulders on the pitch with the likes of superstars Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
And he will be again tonight, albeit those two particular players will be rested, when the Gunners line up at the Emirates Stadium to face Southampton in the quarter-final tie of the EFL Cup, in what will be the defender’s third games in the ace of 11 days. Good odds can be had on tonight’s match by using your matchbook bonus code.
Right-back Jenkinson, 24, a lifelong Arsenal fan, simply refuses to lie down and perhaps concede that he doesn’t belong in the top tier of the English game; let’s face it he could have an easier time of it plying his trade in the Championship, for instance, and still enjoy a certain kudos along with a handsome pay packet.
But Jenkinson, who has even earned one full England cap, is the personification of desire; an enthusiastic defender driven to succeed at the club of his boyhood idols, no matter what obstacles are hurled into in his path.
He has overcome injuries, one severe, dips in form and being loaned out by Wenger — not exactly an injection of faith from the manager (albeit he was at West Ham and doing his thing in the Premier League) — to rise above the hurdles and emerge as a fitter, better, stronger player.
He plays against the Saints tonight on the back of a long lay-off with a serious knee injury and the game time is essential for him to reach his peak, in terms of both fitness and form. Criticism in some quarters has suggested that even when fully fit, Jenkinson isn’t quite polished enough a performer to dine at the top table with Arsenal.
But Wenger seems happy to persevere with the player and said:
“You forget that it’s a big ask to come back from a big injury. Carl is very conscientious and sometimes a bit anxious. It takes him time to play completely with freedom.”
“He needs a run of games to play with freedom, so the fact that he can get another games. I think we’ll already see a different Carl. I rested him completely against Bournemouth because he played two big games and I felt he needed a breather.”
“Sometimes, mentally three games in a week demands a lot. We’ll get him back tomorrow, put Gabriel in the centre and I will see for Saturday.”