Thursday, January 20, 2022

Thoughts on Sagna and Jenkinson plus Olivier’s dirty dozen

Morning all.

Things will quieten down on the training ground this week as many of our players jet off to play for teams they have to play for due to the accident of their birth. And by that I mean the place of their birth was completely out of their … erm … hands, not that they have elder two brothers and the age gap is 16 years and every time his father looks at him he kind of sighs a weary sigh.

It used to be a case that the only people left during Interlulls (should that have more latin based plural? Interlii, or something?) were Almunia and the cleaning staff. Nowadays, with the injured players and guys like Arteta who can’t get a look in for the Spanish national team, there’s a bit more activity around the place. After a reasonably tough spell though, I’m sure it’ll be handy to get some tweaks and twangs looked at, and for further recuperation for those who have been out longer term.

Once we get to the far side of this particular ‘lull, we’ll be closer to first team returns for Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong, who played for the reserves last night, while there’s bound to be some progress regarding Wojciech Szczesny (who has that worrying “2-3 weeks” thing going where every week he’s “2-3 weeks” – Up Escalator Injuries), and Abou Diaby.

Also on his way back is Bacary Sagna who played for an hour for the U21s last night as they beat Reading 2-0 at Barnet. The U21s name has confused people but it is permitted to play three over-age players in each game, as the U21s is the reserves by another name/branding, and as such clubs do need to use these games for players returning from injury. Which is also why Andre Santos played last night, and while I can understand that (his need for match fitness etc), it’s a game I’m glad he got through ok after Kieran Gibbs withdrew from the England squad after picking up a thigh strain against West Ham on Saturday.

The Sagna situation is going to be interesting though. Two months ago there wouldn’t even have been a discussion about who would play when both our right backs are fit, and it’s a testament to how hard Carl Jenkinson has worked and how his game has improved that we need to have it now. I’m not sure that Sagna’s post transfer window outburst was most well advised piece of press he’s ever been involved in, but at the same time he was expressing concerns shared by many fans at that time, and when judging a player on the pitch few give 100% and play with as much consistency as Sagna.

My feeling is that when he’s fully fit and match sharp then his place as the established first choice kicks in and he returns to the first team, but he does so knowing that there’s a very keen, very hungry youngster pushing him all the way and it provides us with the kind of competition necessary to maintain high standards of performance. I know some will say that it’d be harsh on Jenkinson but he’s a young guy, still quite raw, and with plenty of his career in front of him.

And players rarely develop on an always upward curve. There’s improvement, plateau, improvement, plateau, and ideally, when a first choice player is out and a youngster comes in, what you want to see is for them to take their chance, to prove they’re ready and to benefit from regular football. Jenkinson has done that, no question about it. He’s a much more confident and assured player now, but let’s not forget he’s still got plenty to learn and can continue to do that even if he’s not playing week in, week out.

The difference now is that he knows, we know, and the manager knows, that when called upon he’s ready. It was unfortunate that his injury coincided with Sagna’s last season as he’d have had more first games under his belt now, but you can’t help but wonder if last season’s team was the right one for a player of his inexperience to come into. Would the baptism have been too fiery and would we be looking at him in a different light now? Timing in football is so important, and as frustrating as it might have been at the time maybe his injury wasn’t the worst thing in the world to happen to him.

The bottom line though is that Arsene Wenger knows he’s got two very good options now at right back. The experience and quality of Frenchman and the youthful verve of the Arsenal supporting Finglishman. The season is long, there’s a lot of football to play and we’ll need to use our squad to its fullest at times. I think the spell Jenkinson has had in the team will stand him in good stead in the longer term even if in the short-term he doesn’t play quite as regularly, and it’s up to Sagna to keep his place when he does come back. Win win, in my book.

Elsewhere, Olivier Giroud says he wants a dirty dozen. Of goals. Speaking to Canal Plus he said of his goal against West Ham:

Seeing the ball in the net is something I expected. I am now baptized and I hope there will be many more. I feel good about this team and I am confident that I will score more goals. Why not a dozen like in my first season at Montpellier?

Or a baker’s dozen. Or a dozen and six. I’m easy. It’s good that he’s now taken that monkey off his back and, before it can dive to win a free kick with nobody anywhere near him, has kicked that monkey right in it’s monkey balls. His all round game looks good but it’s down to him now to prove he can do it on a consistent basis, lest that sneaky monkey return for another piggyback.

And that’s that. More Interlully goodness tomorrow.

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