There aren’t too many positions in the Arsenal squad where there is sufficient competition for a starting spot. In fact there hasn’t been one for a while, barring the one position where there is genuine competition; the right back position. With the rise of Carl Jenkinson in the far east, and the evolution of Hector Bellerin, the battle of the right backs may be about to emerge.
Very few, in fact, none, would have anticipated or could have predicted, that the most beefed up position in the Arsenal squad would be conquered by a 19 year old Hector Bellerin, who, not a season and a half ago, was a reserve team player. At the beginning of last year’s transfer window, all of us fans, as well as former players, pundits and journalists, were confused when Arsene Wenger picked up 2 players in that position; Calum Chambers (who ,as we have now understood, is more of a central defender) and Mathieu Debuchy, were 2 players brought in to compete for the right back position. Carl Jenkinson, Arsenal’s second choice right back behind Bacary Sagna in the season before, was about to leave on loan to London rivals West Ham United.
Arsenal now had 2 Right backs in Chambers in Debuchy. It was not until Arsenal’s first game against Borussia Dortmund in the group stages of the champion’s league, where due to an injury to the right back duo , young Spaniard Bellerin was given a chance to showcase his talent up and down the flanks. He did not impress on his debut, though he was not the only one to blame in that game as the entire team under performed, enduring a 2-0 defeat at against the Bundesliga Giants. However, plenty of opportunities came his way way, and he made the best use of them. In no time, he was playing week in week out. With ample game time at his disposal for the rest of the season, Bellerin played in almost all important games for the Gunners both home and away, even starting ahead of Debuchy in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa. Bellerin has now become Arsenal’s first choice right back, and deservedly so. With his position most likely secured for some time, the competition for the other right back position now exists e between Chambers and Debuchy. Chambers, is likely to feature more as a central defender; and has been doing so as Arsenal’s 4th choice centre back, while Debuchy has started every game as Arsenal’s second choice right back.
With this backdrop, what could we as fans make of the competition for this position with the possible return of Carl Jenkinson next season? With his return Arsenal would have 3 top quality right backs.
Carl Jenkinson v Mathieu Debuchy
Carl Jenkinson has seen himself go out on loan for a second time. For the childhood Arsenal fan now turned squad member, that must not have been easy. To his relief, he signed a new contract before going out on his second loan spell. His performance last season, for the Hammers, was commendable; one that convinced fans and Wenger alike that there is no way Jenkinson must be sold. He has continued his fine form into this season. There is little doubt that Wenger will bring him back into this squad, and most likely for the next season. This would imply that Wenger would have to ask Debuchy to either leave for another club or on loan, of which there is a good chance Debuchy will opt for the former, as most players of his age prefer moving away permanently in search of more first team football than live a life of professional uncertainty. So what qualities does Jenkinson have that Debuchy does not?
For one, Jenkinson is physically stronger (at least he seems to be). He is younger, and therefore may have more stamina and energy to cover ground. He is as well, a little more eager to prove himself; i.e , not taking anything away from Debuchy, one can say that Jenkinson has probably waited much longer to prove himself as a gunner; only because it has mattered for much longer to Jenkinson than it has to Debuchy. Does he have the intelligence and experience to replace Debuchy permanently? Cannot say for sure; maybe not.
Mathieu Debuchy is , let’s not forget, France’s first choice right back. In last years world cup he consistently kept Bacary Sagna out of the starting 11 spot, playing in almost every game. His qualities are without doubt unquestionable. He is a player who is very alert in transition, is solid defensively, has adequate pace for the premier league, is diligent, smart and disciplined while marking his man, and most importantly, has the experience to play with confidence. However, his recent form has not been convincing enough. Is he definitely what Arsenal need at the moment? I would think so, provided he delivers in the way he is expected to.
Writing or analyzing what could happen to either of these two squad players has proved to be as difficult as it is thinking about it. I will not dwell any further, but as much as I would like to refrain from any conclusions, I get the feeling that if Jenkinson performs exceptionally and Debuchy does not for the rest of the season, it would be unfortunate ,but not surprising to see the French international depart from the North London Club while Jenkinson will be brought back to compete with Hector Bellerin for a spot in the starting 11