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Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has overseen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes since he took over Roberto di Matteo. In 9 games of being in charge, Bruce has picked up 5 wins, drawn thrice and lost just once. Di Matteo was sacked after a run of just 1 win in 11 games and Bruce has steadied the ship to a certain extent and has taken Villa to 13th place. They sit just 4 points off the play-off places in what is a jam-packed mid-table region.
With the January transfer window coming soon, Bruce will undoubtedly be looking at a few players to bring into the club. Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson is his prime target, as he is looking to shore up a defense that has leaked goals left, right and center. Villa have used Scotsman Alan Hutton there for the entirety of the season so far, but are looking at Jenkinson as a fresher alternative.
Jenkinson has had a whirlwind few past weeks as he has seen his stock fall considerably. An England international with one cap, Jenkinson was on loan at West Ham for 2 seasons where he impressed and racked up 50 appearances in doing so. He was expected to return to Arsenal as a better player, but his recent performances haven’t been convincing enough.
In the absence of Hector Bellerin, he was thrown into the open when he was fielded in the game against Manchester United, in which Arsenal laboured hard in the end to draw 1-1. He was then picked for the game against Paris Saint-Germain. Again, the 24-year-old put in some mediocre performances and fans started to get on his back, quite understandably. His last appearance for Arsenal came in the 2-0 League Cup defeat to Southampton. His stock had fallen so much that Gunners fans actually ironically cheered his substitution, throwing a lot of light on what they think of him.
One could put his inconsistency and failures down to a serious knee injury that he sustained at Upton Park. But that is certainly no excuse as Arsenal have helped him in every step through his recovery and rehabilitation. His performances on loan at West Ham were quite encouraging and there were talks of him returning to Arsenal to challenge Bellerin for a spot. But it’s clear that the Spaniard is leaps and miles ahead of his English counterpart, who has failed to hit the ground running this season.
So could a loan with a Championship club like Villa help Jenkinson get his career back on track? No doubt Steve Bruce is a good, experienced manager who wants to use Jenkinson to conjure up a promotion chase with Villa. But Jenkinson must be wary before making any such move.
He was a teenager on the books of Charlton Athletic when Arsenal came calling for his services and his time in League 1 remains his only playing experience so far, outside the Premier League.
The Championship is a harsh, fast league that sees the teams play a lot of games and this could take a strain on Jenkinson. He would be better served moving on loan to a Premier League club, as he has shown he is capable of doing well in this division during his time with the Hammers. In his first season at Upton Park, he racked up close to 32 league appearances. In his second term there, he had racked up 20 appearances before injury struck him hard.
Wenger has recently admitted that Jenkinson’s confidence is at an all-time low and he will need to bide his time before making an appearance for Arsenal again. Clearly, he showed a lot of nerves in his recent appearances for the Gunners and with Arsenal only second to Chelsea in the Premier League race, they really cannot afford such nerves. Instead, they need nerves of steel in order to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title along with also doing well in the Champions League.
At 24, he has a lot of time on his hands and should make the right move this January, in order to get his career back on track. The offer from Aston Villa might be tempting, but Arsenal too needs to realise that sending Jenkinson to Villa might only be risking another injury for Jenkinson.