The leaves have started to begin to drop, the cold winds come from the east, the rain and hail from the sky, the clocks have gone backwards and the nights have drawn in. The John Lewis advert has had its first showing, Santa Clause has endorsed Coca-cola, the burning smell of fireworks night has worn off, and the Halloween sweets have been eaten. As minds turn to Christmas, it can mean only one thing. Arsenal are in the usual November injury crisis.
Of those injured, we have the long termers in Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck. We will not see them again this year. The Big German might never play in an Arsenal shirt again. Lukas Perez and Chuba Akpom were only bit-part players, so their injuries will not be massively missed, and Santi Cazorla is set to return soon – probably the PSG Champions League game.
It is this weeks two injuries that are most concerning.
Alexis Sanchez has been killed by Chile, and Hector Bellerin massacred by Spain taking the Arsenal November injury list up to 7. Of the two, early indications show that Bellerin could be out for the longest, reports of at least 4 weeks will soon turn into a 2017 return.
So what options does Arsenal have in replacing the best right back in world football?
Since returning from his own 8 month lay off having suffered a knee injury whilst on loan at West Ham, Jenkinson has played 180 minutes of football for Arsenal. 90 minutes in both the League Cup against Reading & Ludogorets in the Champions League. They were not exceptional performances.
What Jenkinson showed whilst on loan at West Ham is he is a competent mid-table Premier League full back. Not a world beater, but at the same time not awful. He would do a job for Arsenal at right back against 60% of Premier League sides.
Over the years, Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were successful due to having the likes of Wes Brown, Nicky Butt and John O’Shea to call upon. None were world class players, but they were all decent Premier League players, able to perform when called upon. They gave United a bit of strength in depth, and they all loved the club.
Jenkinson falls into this category. He might not be good enough week in week out for the next 5 years to be Arsenal’s 1st choice right back, but he is certainly good enough to be our 2nd choice over that period.
What I find interesting with his situation is the boo boys who moan Arsene Wenger does not give English players enough of a chance, will today be moaning about Bellerin’s injury, and that we should not have to be relying on Carl Jenkinson.
With no game for Arsenal for 10 days, it will give Wenger and the fitness team time to get Jenkinson up to speed so he is ready for Manchester United.
The alternative to Carl Jenkinson will be experienced French international Mathieu Debuchy.
He signed 2 years ago as Bacary Sagna’s replacement and, having replaced the ex-Arsenal player in the French national team, looked a good player. He then got hit by a terrible run of luck, and the break through of Hector Bellerin, which saw him marginalised at the club to the point where is was only injury that stopped him leaving this summer.
Fitness will be a worry for Debuchy. He has not played this season, appeared just 9 times for Bordeaux last season, and has appeared a total of 31 times in the last 2 and a bit seasons.
Now 31, how sharp will he be having missed so much 1st team football? Will he be able to come back and put in the solid performances he did for Newcastle in 2013? And more importantly, how is his attitude towards playing for Arsenal having spent a good part of the year trying to engineer a move away from the club?
He was included in the Arsenal 1st team squad photo, so he has certainly not been put down yet, but it would be a big risk to play a player who has been so unhappy, so injured, in recent years.
One of our stand out players this has been German international Shkodran Mustafi. The partnership alongside Laurent Koscielny is a key reason we are in the title race. Not only has Mustafi showed strength in defence, but he has also proved to be an asset bringing the ball out of defence.
Numerous times this season, when chasing the game, he has acted as an auxiliary right back, driving into the space left by Hector Bellerin allowing the Spaniard to push further up the pitch. With John Stones going for nearly £50m as a ball playing centre back, Mustafi looks like a steal.
When we signed him, there were reports that he could play right back, and had done so for Germany in their successful 2014 World Cup campaign. The truth is a little different.
He did play 3 times at right back for Germany in the 2014 World Cup. All from the bench, playing a grand total of 132 minutes.
Throughout his career, he has barely played at right back at all. Just 18 times in fact. And not since 2012/13 for Sampdoria has he done it on an even semi-regular basis.
Moving Mustafi out wide, to be replaced with either Rob Holding or Gabriel in the middle would be a big risk. It would basically be weakening two areas of the park. It would be a big risk.
Another option for Arsenal could be to play Rob Holding at right back, and then Mustafi in the middle, but this would not be as strong as Jenkinson.
In my opinion, the best option will be Jenkinson right back, and leave the rest of the defence the same.
That way, you have a natural right back playing at right back, and inside him you have a strong centre back who is capable of pushing a bit further out to the right to protect his less experienced (but older) full back.
It would also not surprise me if, whilst Bellerin is out, we see Aaron Ramsey play on the right wing, just to give us a bit of extra defensive strength.
This could be Carl Jenkinson’s chance to shine.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.