Gillespie Guest Post: The QPR Perspective

I have to start this blogpost by stating how much I am not looking forward to Saturday’s fixture from a Rangers perspective. The Super Hoops’ season has for the most part proved to be a series of defensive shambles that leaves us without a win in the league. Watching the way we’ve played for considerable spells in most games has left me wondering why this is the case. Although many joked before the season started that we’ve assembled a ridiculously large squad that should be challenging for the 2005/06 Premier League title I thought the squad would kick on from last season and the mix of experience we have (Cisse/Zamora/Park/Nelson) would blend well with the younger quality in the squad (Faurlin/Diakite/Granero/Hoilett and the unpredictable Taarabt).

However, for me this was dependant on two other crucial points. The first was to get rid of the poison that is Joey Barton and secondly to add some real defensive quality. Luckily Joey has been shipped off to France (and it seems as though he’s picked up some of the lingo‏…“@Joey7Barton Bonne nuit xxx”. Yes, well done Joey, we can only hope it’s “bonne nuit” for good.)

On the defensive point; last season we were relying on the likes of Clint Hill as a makeshift centre back and Luke Young and while their efforts can’t be denied, and there were some stunning performances, this isn’t something that you can continue to get away with in the Premiership. Unfortunately, we haven’t really improved in this area. The main signings have been Ryan Nelson (good squad member/mentor but not good enough) and M’bia, who has shown some talent but still needs time to get used to the Premier League. This goes some way to explaining why we shipped 5 at home against Swansea on the opening day of the season and couldn’t hold leads against Reading in the League Cup and Everton at the weekend – all games we should have won.

And so we find ourselves propping up the league table coming in against an Arsenal team that before this week have, in my opinion, shown some good signs of moving on from the RVP saga, although I can’t help but feel that the loss of Song got swept under the carpet in this whole episode. Having said that I’ve always had a massive respect for Arsenal and Wenger, even before my first of many visits to Highbury courtesy of Nick Cooke; a 4-0 Gunners win over Charlton in 2004 when Henry scored with an outrageous back heel. My fondness of Arsenal also probably comes from getting annoyed that seemingly everyone at my primary school seemed to support Spurs…

So what’s in store for this weekend’s fixture? After the disappointment of Norwich and the lacklustre performance against Schalke I can’t see Wenger accepting anything less than a full-blown, fully-committed performance based on the intricate, attacking football that Arsenal are famed for. I can only imagine that Arsenal will be buoyed by the fact that after the past week, they come up against a QPR team that has already shipped 17 goals in 8 games (the 2nd worst record in the league). I am expecting a very similar line-up to the one that set out mid-week, with Wilshere to come in if he is fit, though I’m sure you’ll know better than I do. In any case, if I were an Arsenal fan I would probably fancy my chances of getting back to winning ways this weekend.

As for QPR this may have been a fixture that last season would have counted as a “freebie”. If we lost to Arsenal at the Emirates nobody would be ringing any alarm bells, with a draw or better seen as a huge bonus. But the situation is different now. The pressure has been piling on to Mark Hughes – the latest Comedian-in-Chief at Loftus Road. Hughes was ill-advised to suggest over the summer that QPR would never again under his leadership be in the positions we were in last season and so I honestly believe that this is a game we need to get points in. Tony Fernandes, our Malaysian owner, will also be hoping for a victory against a club he sees as the mould for where QPR could be in the not too distant future!

So how do I think Mark Hughes will line-up tomorrow? Our line-up has changed so frequently that Hughes seems to have taken on the role of tinker in the league so this is a hard one to predict. But given the nature of the opposition I would expect Hughes to play with the preferred 4-5-1. The major changes form the Everton game will be Faurlin to come in to the starting XI – probably for Taraabt – and I fancy Cisse to start ahead of Zamora. This will leave a central midfield triangle of Diakite-Faurlin-Granero, which has real quality in there with Hoilett and Park bridging the gap with Cisse. When those three in the middle get on the ball and play around, QPR produce their best performances so I’m really hoping Hughes goes with them.

There is a potential that Arsenal old-boy Armand Traore could be injured so Onouha should start if that is the case. That leaves the only question of who out of M’Bia, Anton, Nelsen would form the centre back pairing? Ferdinand was left on the bench following his return from injury last weekend and I personally hope he stays there. He always seems to play better under the relative security of Loftus Road with the home fans backing him and always seems lethargic on the road.

 

With QPR’s 15 odd years of exile from the Premier League there aren’t many fixtures to go from in recent times. Both teams won their respective home games last year and though Arsenal fans may have forgotten that game in a hurry, it had a massive impact for Rangers. Not only was it part of our incredible run in to secure safety in the league, but many see that game as the day Taarabt finally arrived in the Premier League. He will still amaze and frustrate in equal measure but if the match is close with 20/30 minutes left, expect the Rangers fans to be chanting his name.

I think most people will fancy an Arsenal win tomorrow and although both teams have made a habit of going behind in matches, QPR have yet to recover to win. I think the game will be a lot closer than some might be predicting with 2-1 Arsenal or 1-1 both likely results.

Incidentally, I’ve not been to the Emirates Stadium yet but I remember the pies at Highbury being worth every penny.

Omar

Advertisements

Do Your Homework: FC Schalke 04

Merely one week ago most Arsenal fans, especially with our incredible record of not losing at home in the Champions league to a foreign team since 2003, would have seen Wednesday’s game against Schalke as a tough but very win-able fixture. Domestic form over the last week has thrown a different complexion on tomorrow’s proceedings. We all know about Arsenal’s forgettable showing at Norwich, which stands in stark contrast to a very impressive away victory for Shalke over big rivals Dortmund, but what of the dark German horses?

Shalke are managed by Huub Stevens, a former Dutch international defender who has enjoyed a long and nomadic managerial existence, mainly in the Netherlands and Germany. This is actually Stevens’ second spell at Shalke. Between 1996 and 2002 he took charge for the first time, winning the UEFA Cup in 1997 and in 1999 the Shalke fans voted him the ‘trainer of the century’. Stevens returned to Schalke in September 2011 and has steadied the ship. Last season inconsistencies in key matches meant they finished just outside  of the trophies. They lost to Bilbao in the quarter finals of the Europa League, and lost all of their matches against the top two Bundesliga sides, Bayern and Dortmund, meaning they ended the season in 3rd.

So, does their victory over Dortmund on the weekend signal a significant improvement this time around? The danger man continues to be Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, a player Arsenal have been strongly linked to. Last season he scored 29 in the Bundesliga and 48 in total. In Tuesday’s press conference Wenger spoke of the danger he possesses and the relationship he and Thomas Vermaelen enjoy from their Ajax days:

Thomas knows him well. We have to be focused in the box with Huntelaar

They are well organised, dangerous on the counter attack, but I expect us to respond in a strong way

Huntelaar himself has been speaking of his respect for the Arsenal midfield and the importance of denying us space high up the pitch. He also hints at their fear of sitting too deep and inviting pressure, something that actually works against us all the time actually:

If we show the same attitude against Arsenal as we did against Dortmund, we’ve got a chance. We have to make sure we close down the spaces. Arsenal have very good midfielders. We can’t afford to concentrate solely on defending, though. We have to go forward like we did in Dortmund.

We’ll be really motivated going into the game, but that’s more to do with our opponents rather than the game against Montpellier. Obviously it was a shame that we gave away two points against Montpellier but we’ve put that behind us now. We’re totally focused on Arsenal and are determined to take something from the game – if possible, three points of course.

The late goal conceded at home to Montpellier meant Schalke added one point to the three they picked up in a 2-1 away win at Olympiacos on matchday one. It looks as though dangerman Draxler is still out with an arm injury picked up against the French but we also have to be wary of for Ibrahim Afellay, the speedy Dutchman on loan from FC Barcelona. You would expect Afellay to play on the left with Farfan on the right and Huntelaar through the middle. Holtby will be sitting at the top of a midfield diamond. Jenkinson and Santos will have to be constantly aware not to venture too far up the pitch leaving us exposed on the counter-attack. Arteta will need to be as disciplined as ever, keeping an eye on Holtby as well as watching Huntelaar whenever he chooses to drop deep as he did against Dortmund.

We’ll have opportunities of our own and you can bet our own Germans will be right up for this one. Podolski has a great scoring record against Schalke, bagging one in each of the league fixtures for Koln last year and both of our centre backs should know a fair bit about Huntelaar. Looking at the state of the group a draw wouldn’t be too bad a result but you feel we all need a win to banish the cobwebs of Norwich. Come on the Arsenal.

Nick


Same Old Story – The Canary Conundrum

Before Sunday’s defeat to Norwich, even after a slow start to the season, the mood amongst Arsenal fans was one of hope. Things were different this year. The squad had been given an injection of experience. These were seasoned professionals who had been around the block, who were capable of turning up each and every week, finding a way to win the tight games away from home. Some of them were even German for fuck sake. Why then did we witness the worst performance from an Arsenal team in a long time at Carrow Road yesterday?

One of the main frustrations of this particular defeat is the lack of any real explanation. Yes we could blame the goalkeeper, and I will, but this was bigger than that. Usually when we lose, especially to terrible teams, we dominate the game. We usually miss a host of chances and their keeper has the game of his life. Yesterday we allowed a team that hadn’t beaten anyone thus far this season to control the tempo and run down the clock at their pace. It’s worrying to see the same old problems creeping in for a new looking team. We clearly underestimated them and thought we would just turn up and leave with the win. To be honest I thought the same thing, but I don’t play for Arsenal do I.

Arsene admitted as much after the game:

Maybe we underestimated the difficulty we would face, but the Premier League is the Premier League, if you are not ready for the fight you will always get bad surprises.

Surely going a goal down away from home should be enough to spark them into life. Can Wenger not sit them down and make them watch the Invincibles VHS or even Fever Pitch in the changing room before every game? Why are the players not ready for the fight? Surely the primary job of the manager is to ensure that every weekend we have 11 players on the pitch who are primed and ready for the fight. It makes it even more painful when you watch a team like City fighting for their lives to win from behind with ten men against much better opposition. You could argue the new boys needed this as a learning experience to understand just how demanding the Premier League is. Let’s hope this is the case and they never underestimate anyone ever again.

Unfortunately for me, it seems as though something isn’t right in the preparation before each game. We know Wenger doesn’t spend much time focusing on the opposition. We know he has his own tried and tested pre match routine that doesn’t involve much drama. But perhaps Wenger is sometimes too pragmatic and rational. His motivational style is to condition the players on the training ground during the week. He encourages them to believe in their own technical ability and to buy into his philosophy. This is all well and good but are the inconsistencies we continue to suffer a result of this? Occasionally you need someone to scream at you to give you that extra 5%. We saw against City what we are capable of when we’re up for it and closing down high up the pitch. Against City the size of the match and quality of opposition is alone enough to motivate the team. Against the lesser Clubs we need to try something else.

Some have blamed the demanding nature of the international break as a factor. Undoubtedly this is fair, 14 Arsenal players were away representing their countries over the last 9 days. Norwich had two weeks to practice defending as deep as possible.

Chris Hughton admitted as much:

I’ve had a good two weeks to work with the players and of course that helped.

Wenger pointed out in response:

It’s not an excuse, you could say we have better players but there is only one way to show that – on the football pitch.

Interestingly the squad travelled from Luton to Norwich and were in the air for a total of 14 minutes. Clearly Arsene was concerned about the poor lads suffering the effects of a short train journey.

On the Mannone situation I genuinely think we have the worst goalkeeper in the Premier League. On Sunday morning I was thinking we’d escaped a potential banana skin by getting an alright run of results with a liability in goal, only for him to make yet another howler. His comments midweek about wanting to play for Milan one day are pretty embarrassing. Just because you’ve had a string of fairly average performances for Arsenal doesn’t mean you should start talking. Although if Milan keep playing like they have this season perhaps he could do a job in Serie B.

When you look at the league table it’s not a pretty sight. We’re in 9th position, 2 points behind Tottenham and 10 behind Chelsea after 8 games. Wenger said we will have a concrete idea of what this Arsenal side can do after 10 games. The next two league fixtures are QPR (h) and Man Utd (a). Even if we win both of those we can safely say this squad can do a lot better. The first step is to ensure they go into every single game in the right frame of mind. Let’s hope they’ve learned from this horror-show.

Nick


Gazidis: We’re leaving the ‘era of patience’ behind.. Really?

Ivan Gazidis has been speaking openly on BBC 5Live about the ‘era of patience’ at Arsenal nearly being over. I think for our sanity we can assume he means the era of ‘impatience’. Ivan’s comments could be taken to be an extremely clever ploy to gain a little more patience from slightly disgruntled fans, but they also got me thinking about my Arsenal supporting life and when this ‘era of patience’ might have begun. How many ‘eras’ have there been over the past 24 years? When was the next ‘era’ going to begin? and would things change for the better or for worse during the next ‘era’?

I can only imagine the ‘era of patience’ begun as soon as Viera’s penalty against Utd in the 2005 FA Cup final went in, the last time we won a major trophy. Arsenal fans were fairly buoyant for the next few years however. The team contained some of the greatest players the Club has ever seen, even if we weren’t winning trophies. From a personal perspective I’ve only really lived through two eras. My first clear Arsenal memory was watching Adams smash it in at Highbury against Everton to win the League and then the double in 1998. I think it’s fair to say I had a privileged upbringing in footballing terms. From that moment on I didn’t see us drop points once for about 4 years, going to about 10 games a year. I admit I didn’t fully appreciate the joyous wonderment that was going on in front of me. I thought it would last for ever. The only genuinely upsetting memory from that time was a ridiculous goal from Batistuta for Fiorentina in ’99 at Wembley that sent us out of the Champions League (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf-od48IfkI).

Trips to Cardiff in May became commonplace, and three times out of three we returned as FA Cup winners (I missed the Liverpool game). The final against Chelsea holds particularly special memories of the Ljungberg song and my very own red mohican. In my head Cardiff was like a heavenly paradise, only to return a few years ago and nearly get killed outside Ninian Park by the Soul Crew. I suppose the return to Cardiff, followed by a horrible Carling Cup final defeat to Chelsea at the hands of Drogba, would have been well into the second ‘era’ of Arsenal fandom, the ‘era of impatience’.

The ‘era of impatience’ has brought many great memories and many famous victories, but we still have this ‘no trophies’ tagline hanging over us, weighing us down. What will be the catalyst for the transformation to the next era? Is it simply that we need to win a trophy and we’ll be content for the next few years? Surely we need to be staying in the title race until May and not February/March.

Gazidis seems to base much of his hopefulness on the financial state of Arsenal in comparison with competitors. We all know of the financial strains of moving stadium and keeping up in a heavily unbalanced marketplace dominated by a few rich owners. The recent financial figures show a healthy pre-tax profit of around £50million so we are in a good position, but are we ever really going to be able to compete against the likes of City and Chelsea? Yes Gazidis refers to a future in which Financial Fair Play will create more opportunities for well run Clubs, but is he being realistic? Football has been dominated by those with the most money for years, is FFP really going to rescue a sport which is fast becoming run by a few individuals, most of whom have no idea what they’re doing? We’ve seen Clubs in the lower leagues going into administration all over the place recently, and this is as much to do with the irresponsible spending of millions at the top of the game as the poor management of Clubs themselves.

Gazidis reckons there is a ‘developing concensus’ in the Premier League that there is a need for FFP. UEFA have already introduced guidelines so we are making a move in the right direction. Clearly such a move will benefit Clubs that are run within their means like Arsenal, but will a noticeable difference take years or decades?

‘This is a great time for us, when things are going well, to address the issues of unsustainability while we can because as we’ve learned, addressing them from a position of weakness is never a satisfactory way to do it’.

‘The Premier League owners are coming together: I think there is a developing concensus around the fact we need some sort of tighter financial regulations to make sure as we look forward that the interest of the Premier League, it’s Clubs and it’s fans are well protected’.

‘I think the time when we need to ask them (the fans) for patience is coming to an end and I think we will be able to deliver the kind of success they want on a continued basis going forward as one of the leading Clubs in Europe’.

Well Ivan certainly says the right things. You might well question why, if things are changing and we have loads of money at our disposal, we were forced to sell our captain and best player in the summer to a rival. I know I sound sceptical but I also know I speak for a lot of fans when I say that football isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. There’s no way that UEFA can stop finances dictating who wins and who loses. There is every possibility that we could be seeing QPR winning the league in 5 years if things continue as they are, but possibly only if they get rid of Mark Hughes… Has football, as it was, been tarnished for ever?

Gazidis himself is an interesting character. He’s been slated recently as knowledge of his own salary became public. A 24% pay rise this year means he earns a cool £2million per year. To be honest I don’t really have too many complaints about what the man earns, he seems to do his job reasonably well. If anything he seems to be a bit of a ‘yes man’ for Arsene but aren’t they all. Apart from Ivan the average of the board is currently well into the 70s. Interestingly Gazidis grew up in Manchester and was a City fan!

The distribution of money in football has become less even than ever before, not helped of course by the current economic climate, but was this destined to be a lull in arsenal’s success story followed by a rosy future as Gazidis suggests? Or is this actually just the beginning of the end for any football club attempting to balance the books and win trophies at the same time? Let’s hope UEFA are man enough to stand up to the oligarchs.

Nick


Not just Jenkinson progressing

With a lot of talk focused on the vastly improved Carl Jenkinson, there have been relatively few discussions on the developments of the left side of our defence.

Last year the left back position was, for me, a worry. The sale of Clichy left us with a player, in Kieran Gibbs, who seemed unable to have a run of games in the side, and the last minute purchase of Andre Santos didn’t fill me with confidence. In my opinion a large bid for Leighton Baines should have been lodged in both of the two previous summers, he’s excellent both offensively and defensively and is the right age with the level of experience to perfectly fit into our back four. However, the last couple of transfer windows have come and gone with the arrival of Baines barely mentioned. Last year this meant the left back position was vulnerable, but in this campaign the defensive work down the left of the pitch has been improved. I am not specifically applauding Gibbs for this, as I don’t feel he is solely responsible.

It would be doing Gibbs an injustice if we were not to praise him for a noticeable improvement to his previous seasons at Arsenal. The mere fact that he has had a good run in the side is bound to give him greater confidence and fitness. There were, however, times last year when his positioning was awful, and he would often charge forward leaving a gaping whole in the left channel.  This year he is far more aware of his positioning and he has left us less exposed during key moments.

I would also credit Gibbs’ improvement to the arrival of Podolski and the defensive work of Arteta. Podolski works tirelessly in both attack and defence and provides excellent cover for Gibbs to makes his forward runs. Compare this to last year when Arshavin, Theo or Gervinho were providing cover, and the difference is vast. Arteta’s added defensive responsibilities have also helped us. Despite being billed as a defensive midfielder, Alex Song was simply too attacking to provide adequate cover a lot of the time. Arteta is far more disciplined than Song was and fills gaps in the defence when needed. This year is providing an example of how vital it is to defend as a team all over the pitch and the improvement down the left hand side highlights this improved discipline.

Words on our center back partnerships as well. Per Mertesacker was back for us on Saturday and the increase in defensive solidity was noticeable. He received a fair amount of criticism last year, particularly for his lack of pace, but this year he seems far more in tune with the pace of the league and is proving to be our most reliable center half. This is unfortunate for Koscielny who was arguably our player of the year last year (bar a certain center forward), but it does appear that with both Vermaelen and Mertesacker fit he is going to struggle for game time.

And I know we have managed to go a whole article without a proper mention of Carl Jenkinson but great to see in this interview some nice words from Sagna before his scheduled return.

Will


Gervinho: The New Thierry …

After two months out of the Arsenal loop, I returned to the Emirates for last nights game against Olympiacos. It is always refreshing to know that, in terms of build up, very little changes and the pre match traditions are upheld. On the pitch, as you all know, a lot has changed. Arteta’s successful switch to the defensive side of midfield was interesting to watch. I felt he successfully marshalled the team with a greater certainty than last year. Santi Carzola, despite apparently having a quieter game than usual, provided us with some incredible displays of touch and skill. Pre match, a fellow Gooner described his play as ‘erotic’; at times I find it hard to disagree. And of course the well documented rise of Carl Jenkinson was great to watch and I felt he had a very solid game.

Certainly one of the more surprising changes to the line up is the movement of Gervinho from the wide positions to the center of our attack. Picking a player
whose overwhelming weakness in the previous campaign was finishing seemed like madness, but to be fair he’s now netted five times this season surpassing his tally for the whole of last year.

After the game Steve Bould spoke highly of the team and Gervinho:

‘He is scoring goals so his confidence is sky high, He is a danger with his pace and movement – he could be a top player.”

Surprising comparisons have been drawn with Thierry to which Bould replied:

‘Well, if he gets anywhere near Thierry Henry we’ll take that all day long,”

For him to be mentioned in the same breath as Thierry is, for me, a bridge too far, but judging by the only live performance I have seen he seems to be
adapting to the position well. He is tireless and his movement was encouraging. Scoring and providing an assist, as well as setting up Carzola with a glorious opportunity most would have expected him to bury. It is clear that it will take Gervinho some time to win over many of the Emirates faithful and, given his previous record, this is understandable. There are calls from the stands for Giroud to be given more of a chance and it would seem logical that in the longer term a firing Giroud would be better suited to the current formation. Giroud adds a very different dimension to the attack highlighted by his excellent assist for Ramsey’s last minute goal. That sort of heading ability is something that Gervinho is not capable of.

It’s important to note that Gervinho is very much a work in progress. Even if that’s not what we want or need at the moment, there is no denying that he is
progressing into a more confident and dangerous attacker.

Is he to be the next Thierry? I highly doubt it, but I’ll gladly be proven wrong.

Will


Who Are Ya?: Carl Jenkinson

The two overbearing emotions I feel whilst witnessing the rise of ‘Corporal’ Carl Jenkinson, as dubbed by Alan Davies, are jealousy and pride. Pride because, in Sagna’s absence, after seven starts in a row in the League and Europe, Jenkinson has in Wenger’s words, ‘jumped from primary school to uni in one year, you need special talent to do that’. The jealousy stems from the fact that, like me, Jenkinson is a lifelong Arsenal fan. He’s living the dream that I still convince myself I might too one day be living. It’s not fair. The difference is, even if I did have the footballing ability I’m sure I would be a trembling wreck once I entered the pitch, terrified of wasting the opportunity and letting it pass me by. Jenkinson seems to be able to harness the emotions he clearly feels for the Club and has been arguably the best right back in the League thus far, making him a fans favourite and a unique individual in today’s footballing landscape.

Arsenal are lucky to have a collection of young top class English players who have all been at the Club from a young age. Along with Jenkinson the likes of Gibbs, Frimpong, Wilshere and Yennaris (a mascot the last time we played Coventry) share a relationship with the Club and the fans that goes beyond that of their professional duties.

Jenkinson was at Highbury in 1998 when Arsene Wenger won his first title with Arsenal, he was just 6 years old. ‘I remember the peanut man at Highbury, he would sell them in bags’. He was there in 2004 when the Invincibles beat Leicester City to secure the unbeaten season. He was at the victory parade in Islington the following day, ‘it was a really nice day out for me, dad and my brother’. It’s difficult to comprehend that our current right back shares these same memories and the same heroes as us. Can you imagine his excitement when he heard Thierry was set to return last January.

The whole Jenkinson family are massive Gooners. This month it emerged Carl had bought one of the engraved stones outside the stadium with the message ‘Grandad, hope you’re proud’ emblazoned on it (below). ‘It’s a regret that he has not been able to watch me, but I am sure he is looking down at how things are going for me and the fact that I’m playing for Arsenal’. ‘I am a fan of this Club and that will never change. I am lucky enough to have been given the ability and the chance to play for my Club’.

Carl’s mum is Finnish whilst his dad is English meaning he has dual nationality. He has represented both countries at youth level and has been offered a full international cap by Finland but has turned it down to focus on Club football. With Glen Johnson suspended for the upcoming England game against San Marino, rumours suggest Carl could be in for a first England cap. The squad is announced on Thursday (4th) so we’ll have to wait and see. He definitely deserves it but I’m not sure it’s the best thing for his development right now.

Carl’s rise to prominence is astonishing. The fact he’s being mentioned as a possible England right back is unbelievable considering his footballing past. Seven months before Arsenal came in for him he was on loan at non-league Eastbourne Borough, and the year before that he was at Welling Utd in the Conference South. Even whilst at Charlton he only made nine first team appearances. Nevertheless he was the subject of interest from many Premier Clubs including Chelsea and Tottenham. Clearly there was only one destination for Carl.

Suggestions of an international call up have been supported by many in the media and the wider footballing fraternity. Graeme Souness claims ‘last year, Jenkinson didn’t know where he was at times, but he’s got a chance of being a real player for the next 12 years’. Gary Neville says he has ‘improved enormously’. ‘I don’t know him but he looks like a kid that’ll be willing to run into a brick wall for you’. High praise indeed from the best English right back of his generation (if we consider Lee Dixon the generation before of course, sorry Lee).

Jenkinson, on the face of it, doesn’t look like your average footballer. He runs in a slightly awkward hunched over manner, his ludicrous haircut has been the subject of much amusement within the squad. Nevertheless, he’s a serious athlete and is apparently one of the fittest players at the Club. His crossing ability is far superior to any of the other full backs or even wingers that we possess. The assist for Gervinho against Montpellier is a perfect example of what he offers. He’s good in the air and has the ability to maintain possession in tight areas. One of my favourite stats/facts of the season has to be that Jenkinson has completed more accurate passes thus far than ‘pass master’ Joe Allen.

With Sagna back in full training he has a real battle on his hands for a starting place. After the situation we had last year with all four recognised full backs injured, it’s extremely nice to know we can call on the young man if needs be. Lets hope Souness is right and I’m still feeling proud and jealous as we’re watching Carl storming down the right wing in 12 years time. I’m sure Grandad Jenkinson is a happy man wherever he is.

Nick