When Aaron Ramsey leaves Arsenal this summer, the club’s longest-serving, non-academy graduate will be Laurent Koscielny. Who’s next on the list, we hear you cry? It’s none other than Carl Jenkinson, a player who has made a grand total of two Premier League appearances since 2013/14.
The former Charlton Athletic defender might have been identified as one for the future when he signed for the Gunners in 2011, but we’re not sure that many people would have thought that, when the future in question rolled around, he would actually still be there.
We imagine Jenkinson must have been both nervous and desperate to impress when he made the move from south to north London seven and a half years ago. While undoubtedly a player of promise, he had only ever made nine first-team appearances for Charlton and his only other experience of senior football had come in the Conference South with Welling United and the Conference Premier with Eastbourne Borough.
Jenkinson would have been perfectly happy with a low-key pre-season before his maiden Premier League campaign of 2011/12. Sure, it would have been perfect if he managed to turn in a host of impressive performances to announce his arrival with a bang, but quiet competence would have sufficed.
Things didn’t go to plan: instead, Jenkinson scored the kind of own goal for which the only response is “huh? I guess that really happened then”.
Our story begins at 1. FC Köln’s RheinEnergieStadion, where Arsenal are two goals to the good in their pre-season friendly thanks to a brace from Gervinho. Half-time is imminent, and the players are going through the motions. Well, most of them are, but one man didn’t seem to get the memo.
As the ball is fed forward from the halfway line by a Köln player, there is no danger. Literally none. In fact, they might be less than no danger. It’s like slamming on the brakes while still in your own driveway. When it’s empty. When your car is stationary. When you don’t even have your key in the ignition.
The best-case scenario here? Well, in the best case scenario, Jenkinson misses the ball, falls to the ground and leaves the field with nothing more than a slightly bruised ego. Instead, after… whatever it is he’s trying, he finds himself heading for the medical centre for some ego-sized gauze and bandages.
We’re not in the habit of bullying a player into using his weaker foot, but we’re pretty sure even an acknowledgement that Jenkinson owned a left foot would have prevented this catastrophe.
The worst is yet to come, though, as the timing of the goal – right at the end of first-half stoppage time – makes it look like all 22 players are leaving the pitch in pure disgust at what they have just witnessed. Yes, Jenkinson included.
You might be wondering what was going through the head of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as the ball sailed over him and into the net, via a part of Jenkinson’s leg which even the defender didn’t seem to be sure was attached to the rest of his body.
Well, wonder no more: the now-Juventus glovesman later remembered the incident during a TV appearance alongside compatriot and former Arsenal team-mate Lukasz Fabianski.
“He was in a horrible mood at half-time, sitting depressed, tears in the eyes” Szczesny said. “Then Boro [former first-team coach Boro Primorac] comes to him, in a friendly game, and his words: ‘Carl! Compliments on your first goal for Arsenal!’”
It’s the sort of goal which could give you a sense of humour if you didn’t have one already, but sadly there isn’t any word from either goalkeeper on how Jenkinson reacted to the ribbing.
We imagine he took it better than he took his first away Premier League game for the club, a humbling 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford during which he was sent off in the closing stages, picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Javier Hernandez.
Or maybe not. After all, while he might have picked up a red card in a thumping defeat, at least his contribution wasn’t the only thing people were talking about.