When Carl Jenkinson joined West Ham on loan from Arsenal last year, he quickly endeared himself in the squad and performed very well as an attacking right back.
His runs down the right wing were breathtaking, and he was objectively assessed as the fastest player in the Premier League. He seemed to be the perfect right-sided complement to Aaron Cresswell.
However, in the first part of this season, we are experiencing problems with the right-back position.
It seems that, following the home loss to Bournemouth, Carl has had a small but definitive decline in sprint speed, agility, solidity, balance and quality on the ball – the very essence of what Slaven Bilic values in his players.
Jenks clearly demonstrated a very impressive and comprehensive skill set during the 2014/15 season. From a survival point of view, he must try and quickly address these issues, and re-gain the confidence that Slav needs to justify his continued selection as right-back.
There is some suggestion that his drop in form reflects a simple lack in confidence, which many players experience on a periodical basis for no apparent cause. Before we can adopt this rather unsatisfactory explanation, it is essential that his present drop in form cannot be attributed to injury issues. Has he lost the confidence of the manager, with his somewhat laid-back attitude to training, which would not impress Slav.
Injuries: Requires a full medical work-up for presence of new injuries and/or re-injuries to previous stress fracture in lower back (2011-12 season) which kept him out for three months, and a hamstring injury sustained in August 2014, which sidelined him for four games.
Attitude towards Training: In a light-hearted interview with Aaron Cresswell on West Ham TV, when asked who the better trainer was, Jenks freely admitted that “energy conservation is what I’m about. Thursday and Friday, don’t move, save me for Saturday”. For a person with such a high game performance work ethic, the question arises: is he nursing some unresolved injury problems?
Opinion & Suggestions: Turning around 2015/16 season requires a combination of medical investigation, together with a change in his attitude towards training and regaining and improvement of recognised skills, the only way to impress the new manager.
He should also consider flexibility in attitude towards playing. In addition, he should look towards improving on certain skills, which assist in discriminating him as a much valued team player, and a preferred choice to a potential January import. His role as right-back is his for the taking if he wishes to retain first-team selection on a regular basis.
Age is in his favour, since he still has a few years away from reaching and maintaining full maturity. While Slav will always treat him with the same courtesy he shows to all squad members, it is time for Jenks to realise how easy it is to fall out of favour if he doesn’t pull his full weight.
Under the best prevailing conditions, Carl Jenkinson has the potential to attain the highest honours at West Ham, and even for England. However, he must choose the right course of action if he is serious about his career in professional football.
His present status quo will do very little to regain his own self-confidence and retain a regular starting position at right-back. Before he can proceed in the right direction, it is of utmost importance that he is able to convince himself and Slav that he is injury-free.
Stress fractures have a nasty habit of recurrence; if he is still carrying such a problem, this would go a long way in explaining his drop in speed, decreased agility, apparent imbalance and weakness in jumping . In addition, his weakness in dribbling, and decreased accuracy in short and long passing, may also be attributed to unresolved injury problems.
If he is experiencing pain during play, this will further exacerbate the problems he is experiencing, which in turn will force him into a negative-feedback cycle concerning his confidence.
It is his responsibility to address these possible injury concerns with the appropriate members of the medical staff. In addition, if he wants to regain the confidence of Slaven Bilic, it is essential that he addresses his present energy conservation attitude to training.
The resources that he needs are all paved along the right road, providing he shows the initiative to pursue it.
James Tomkins is making an impressive bid to secure the right-back position for himself. As a defender, he has very strong qualities in favour of his selection. If Slav wishes to maintain the pace and acceleration throughout the entire team, a rehabilitated Carl Jenkinson would seem to be a worthwhile consideration.
Furthermore, the astute observer may appreciate an alternative midfield attacking role, which could make better use of his gifted pace and acceleration.
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