Not just Jenkinson progressingPosted: October 11, 2012
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.