Arsenal launched their new Nike yellow away kit in the scorching heat this afternoon and after the unveiling of an eye-catching stadium mural Arseblog News, alongside @Gingers4Limpar, @LittleDutchVA and the gang from @Gunnerstown were handed the chance to sit down with right-back Carl Jenkinson.
Here’s what the 21-year-old right-back had to say as he was grilled left, right and centre about squad numbers, his aims for the season ahead, childhood memories of Arsenal, being mentored by Steve Bould and more…
LDVA – Abou Diaby vacated the number 2 shirt recently, did you have your eye on it at all?
Obviously it’s something I had my eye on because number 2 is a traditional right-back’s number. I’d love to wear it at some stage, but I’m in this number  this year as far as I know. It’s something you’ve got to earn I think. When I’m established and I’m the regular right-back it’s something I’d be a bit more comfortable wearing. It’s something I feel I can earn. I’ve had the number 25 for two seasons now and although it crossed my mind [changing] I’ll keep the same one. Hopefully at some stage I’ll wear that number 2.
Gunnerstown – How is it working with Bacary Sagna, are you learning a lot from him, the season international that he is?
I’ve learnt so much from him over the last couple of years. He’s one of the best and it’s been a privilege training with him. He’s a fair bit older than me, an experienced head like him talking me through training and give me tips and this and that…I’ve learnt a lot from him. The thing with Bac is he’s such a nice fella. I respect him as a player, but also as a teammate and a friend. He’s such a top guy. I’ve learnt a lot off him and I’m sure there’s more I can.
G4L – I often wonder how players feel about transfers at this time of the season. Of course, you want to win stuff and to have good players come in, but how do you feel when the club are linked to established right-backs? Is that just the way it is?
As a footballer you quickly realise how much you read in the paper isn’t really the case. Until you see a player walk through the door it’s not something you should worry about. There’s so much speculation and so much of it isn’t true. If you took everything you read in the papers literally we’d be signing ten players a day. Until someone walks through the door don’t take it [to heart].
G4L – When a new player does walk through the door do players see it as part of the modern game, you have two players per position and you fight it out, or is there resistance to it?
In the modern day you have two players in each position but it’s up to you to make sure you’re the first choice. Not many managers would go through a season with one full-back for example, you need to have two. If there’s two you want to be the best and the one playing. That’s all there is to it really.
Arseblog News – When there is a lot of transfer speculation flying around is it something you joke about in the dressing room?
You know what, and this is the honest truth, we don’t really discuss it. It’s not something we talk about, that’s the honest truth. You read stuff in the papers and like I said so much of it never turns out to happen.
Gunnerstown – Would you look forward to working with Gareth Barry?
[Sharp look towards Arsenal communications officer, laughter all round followed by silence.]
Arseblog News – Are your personal aims for the season ahead different to those you set yourself 12 months ago?
Massively. This season I want to be playing every week so my aims have changed a lot. Last season I think realistically I knew Bacary was going to be the first choice right-back and I was going to have to deal with that and change it through the season. Going into this season, from a personal perspective, I want to be playing. I don’t know what the boss is thinking, but it’s up to me in pre-season to show what I’m capable of. Hopefully I want to be starting the season, that’s what I want to be doing. I’ve got back to compete with Bac and he’s a world class player so it’s not going to be easy. I would be lying though if I said it wasn’t my aim.
Gunnerstown – Leading on from that, does the boss ever sit you down and explain what he’s thinking regarding playing time?
Of course, but it’s obviously something which is kept between the manager and the player. He will talk to you at certain stages during the season and often not something that’s plan. Off the cuff he might pull you to one side and say, ‘Look, this is where you are at the moment, this is what you need to improve on…’ It’s the same with every player, most managers do that to help develop their players. He [Arsene] does that with us and from a player perspective that’s very beneficial. I’ve played under managers when I was younger and they’d go a whole season without talking to you and you don’t know where you stand and what you can improve on. To be fair to the boss you never have that [here]. He’s always telling, whether through the other coaches or whatever, what you need to work on and what you need to improve.
Gunnerstown – Was there a big difference when Steve Bould came into the first team fold, a guy of his stature being involved?
Well obviously we had Pat Rice before so we had someone of that calibre before. I learnt a lot off Pat and obviously he played in the same position as me so you know he taught me a lot. When Bouldy came in, he was more like my era, so I could relate to him a bit more.
You call him Bouldy to his face?
Oh yeah, Bouldy, yeah…It’s great having him on board as well. I think in terms of coaches, it’s always great to have a coach who’s been there and done it. As a player you do still look up to them and think, ‘You don’t argue with that, he’s done it and been there and achieved great things.’ There’s a lot of respect from the players towards him [Bould]. He’s brought in his own stamp with regards the defensive work and what we’ve been doing. I can’t remember [exactly] but I know we had a good defensive record last season so it’s obviously been working. I think we improved a lot last season.
G4L – Last season the team seemed to defend a lot deeper and tighter, is that something that happened consciously, something which was introduced last summer?
Yeah, we’ve done a lot more shape work. Since Bouldy has come he’s been working on a specific drill which revolves around shape and pressing when you should press and dropping when you should drop. I guess the answer to your question is yes, we’ve worked on it. I think so far it’s been working.
LDVA– We’ve spoken a bit about people mentoring you, Steve Bould, Pat Rice, Bacary Sagna. Hector Bellerin has just signed a new contract at the club and is coming up behind you having really taken the eye this year in the Reserves. How aware are you not just of the competition from Hector but also the mentoring role as he comes through? That’s something new to you…
I’m only 21 myself and I think Hector is 18 so I’ve got a few years on him and I’m sure there are a few things I can teach him. I know a lot about Hector, he’s trained with us a few times now and he’s looks a very good prospect. It’s good to have that. It pushes me and it pushes him, you push each other. It’s good to have competition. He’s obviously a very good player and he’s done well last year so it’ll only benefit the squad next year if he’s with us more. Competition is always healthy.
Arseblog News- You signed your contract alongside four of the other British squad members and you all launched the kit together today. A lot has been made of the ‘British core’ do you find that it adds extra pressure or is it a case of strength in numbers?
I don’t see it as added pressure. It’s a nice thing that we’re all of a similar age, that we’ve all signed together, that we’re all good friends. I see it as a positive, I don’t think there are any negatives. I really enjoy it, I enjoy the boys company and I enjoy playing with them.
Gunnerstown – When you signed there was a big deal made about the fact you could play anywhere across the back four. Is it now a case something you’ve put that to one side in your mind or are you definitively a right-back?
For me personally, not at all [has he given up on being a centre-back]. Obviously the boss picks the team and he has the main say. I’d say right-back is my position…it’s where I enjoy playing the most, but I played a lot of my youth career at centre-half up until I was 18. A lot of people have said often to me that they prefer me as a centre-half so that’s an option of course. I think it’s always been a strength of mine that I can play in a few different positions. Right-back is now my main position, but I can definitely play centre-half as well. I can even play at left-back as well.
LDVA– Have you ever had, or do you still have, an Arsenal bedspread, Arsenal curtains, or Arsenal pyjamas?
No, no I don’t [now]…I’m going to have to disappoint you there. My room in my parent’s house is still exactly the same, it hasn’t changed. I’ve got my own place now and there aren’t any Arsenal bedspreads. I don’t think my old room will ever be changed though, it’s a nice thing to keep.
LDVA – I’m going to tell everyone you said yes…
[Laughter all round]
G4L – Is it difficult striking a balance between being a player and a fan? There aren’t many players who are in that position…
I think it’s something that is difficult. It is difficult, especially early on. I found it difficult and all very strange to go from sitting in the stands the season before to walking in and shaking the boys hands and coming to terms with them being my new work colleagues. It’s very strange. It’s difficult to explain. I’d be lying if I said it was any different. As time goes by things change and you become more comfortable in the environment. I enjoy it a lot more now than I used to. When I first signed, and in my first couple of weeks, it was all very daunting. It takes time adjusting to it but from my point of view now I couldn’t ask for anything more, it’s the biggest privilege in the world to be able to play for Arsenal having been a fan. To pull on an Arsenal shirt every week is such an honour for me and my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
G4L – How do the other players feel about you being a fan?
I got a bit of banter off the boys when they saw my [Arsenal] bedspreads [at my parent’s house] but they’re cool.
Gunnerstown – What’s your earliest memory of being an Arsenal fan as a kid?
I remember where I sat at Highbury, it’s very clear. I remember the lady who sat next to me. I’d love to meet her now, I’d love to see if she’s still sat at the Emirates now. My memory is awful, so in terms of games and stuff I’m terrible at recalling stuff, but I just loved the whole matchday vibe. We used to park up, walk through Finsbury Park if it was a sunny day…I loved the build up to the game. I used to go with my old man and my brother. I used to like the cheese bagels at half-time, I was a big fan of them. All the little strange things stick in my head, like the peanut guy who used to be in the stadium. He’s not here anymore…
Gunnerstown – If you could choose any past Arsenal star to play alongside, who would it be?
It’s a difficult one. My hero has always been Tony Adams.
You’ve met him?
Yeah, I’ve met him a few times now and he’s a top bloke as well.
Gunnerstown – Is Podolski the craziest player in the dressing-room?
Yeah. [Laughter all round]
Arseblog News – Last question before you go. Arsenal are playing in Finland at the end of the summer. Are you expecting them to be burning effigies seeing as you chose England over them at international level or hoping for a warm welcome?
[Laughs] I don’t know actually. I was speaking to my parents about it. They said ‘don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine.’ I don’t know if I’ll get a good reception or bad. I’ll soon find out. It’ll be interesting, hopefully it’ll be alright…
Thanks very much to Carl and to Arsenal for setting the up the interview. I think the biggest compliment we can pay him is it felt like we were talking to a fellow Gooner down the pub…nice lad.