Carl Jenkinson was one of West Ham United’s best players last season and many called for the Hammers to sign the full back on a permanent basis over the summer. Instead, Jenkinson returned to the Boleyn Ground on another season-long loan deal and judging by his performances so far this campaign, the owners must be happy they kept their wallets in their pockets.
The former Charlton Athletic full back, valued by his parent club Arsenal at around £10m, has been a shadow of the player who was so reliable and dangerous down the right flank in the 2014/15 season. His confidence has gone and he is no longer one of the first names on the teamsheet. Academy of Football graduate James Tomkins has been asked to fill in at right back at times because of Jenkinson’s poor performances.
Tomkins has played in that position before under Sam Allardyce, but he is by no means a right back so it further emphasises how much confidence Jenkinson has lost recently. Th e poorest of Jenkinson’s recent performances came in the comeback victory over Southampton last month. With Aaron Cresswell being ruled out with an injury picked up two days previously at Aston Villa, Jenkinson came back into the side in the unfamiliar position of left back but he’ll not look back on the game with fondness.
Admittedly, he was unlucky to score an own goal to give Southampton the lead aft er 13 minutes, but he was poor throughout the opening 45 minutes. Dusan Tadic was turning the Arsenal loanee inside out and was beating him for pace and with skill. He also failed to deal with Senegal international attacker Sadio Mane when he and Tadic switched wings. But it was not only defensively where Jenkinson struggled — he was also poor in possession.
Usually Jenkinson is assured on the ball and can put a decent cross into the box. Instead, the full back struggled to beat the first man with his crosses, and gave away possession on far too many occasions. At half time, Bilic had no option but to switch Jenkinson back to his preferred position and put Tomkins at left back. Jenkinson improved greatly in his preferred position, but he still struggled to retain possession.
However, the Harlow-born defender has shown glimpses this campaign of what Hammers fans saw regularly last season. In the famous victory at Manchester City, he dealt with the threat of Raheem Sterling with relative ease. Only a month earlier, Manchester City had forked out £49m for the England international, but Jenkinson contained the former Liverpool winger and Sterling was withdrawn without causing Adrian any problems in the Irons’ goal.
Also, Jenkinson has scored two goals for Bilic’s men this term — when he failed to find the back of the net at all last season. He grabbed his first goal for the Hammers in the draw at Sunderland, when he ghosted into the Black Cats’ penalty area and beat Costel Pantilimon when under pressure. He followed that up with another goal a week later, in the impressive victory at Crystal Palace. Once again, Jenkinson advanced into the final third without being tracked, and he slotted the ball past Wayne Hennessey.
That kicked the Hammers onto a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park, which resulted in some pundits stating that West Ham should be seen as contenders for a European spot. In my mind, Jenkinson is still a fantastic right back, and one that West Ham should still consider taking on a permanent deal in the summer transfer window. He just needs to regain his confidence, and that will only come with him getting back in the starting XI.
Last season he showed how exciting he can be when he breaks down the right, while this season he has also demonstrated that he can be dangerous in the opposition penalty area. Also, defensively he can be very good. West Ham fans backed the Hammers to sign him last summer. Now it is up to Jenkinson to prove that he is worthy of the owners spending more than £10million to gain his services from Arsenal on a permanent basis.