For those of you who think my Jenas-bashing is sounding like a broken record, I am proud to announce that this week I come to praise the man, not than bury him. Well alright, “praise” might be a little strong, but this is at least intended to be a mite more constructive than the usual tirade.The sight of our hero lining up for England against Brazil last week may have been a touch bewildering (on the basis of which games exactly did Don Fabio make that particular selection?) but did not appear to produce anything particularly revelatory for us seasoned watchers. As self-appointed guardian of all that goes backwards and sideways, JJ’s approach did help retain possession, but offered little of value either in aiding attack or shielding defence (although I have noted and collected for posterity his tackle on Kaka. That’s Jermaine Jenas tackling Kaka. Cripes).
Jermaine Jenas is Actually Awesome Going Forward. Sort Of.
However, I am prepared to argue – or at least throw the idea out there – that when he finds himself in the right place he can be a handy man to have around. Drop the rotten tomatoes, just here me out. This wondrous “right place” of which I speak could be thought of as a small rectangle around 30 yards from goal. I jest ye not – give him the ball in this area, and he has the capacity to become a different beast. Rack your brains and you too may recall the occasional glimpse of potential he affords us from this position (admittedly, before he retreats again to wallow in the far more familiar surroundings of centre circle mediocrity).
I was reminded of this last week when he played against Brazil of all teams. On at least two occasions in the first half, he received the ball some 30 yards from goal, and rather than spin round and shirk all responsibility, his eyes positively lit up, and he embarked on a dribble towards the Brazilian area.
He’s got previous here too. In the 4-4 at the Emirates last season he threw caution to the wind in the dying stages, and galloped forward to score a peach of a goal. Against Pompey earlier this season, his burst into the area, while completely out of keeping with his other 89 minutes on the pitch, brought a pretty impressive assist for Defoe. Even when he came on as sub against Man Utd a couple of months back, he briefly appeared to be one of the few players with any attacking intent in the final third.
Unfortunately, Jenas is not a great player because these moments of inspiration in the final third are so anomalous, and because he offers precious little else as a central midfielder. Most of the time he is the midfielder other teams would love to see lining up against them. He will do their job for them by slowing down his own high-speed counter-attack, giving all members of the opposition time to get back, regroup, discuss defensive strategy amongst themselves and prepare for the next phase of play. One can only imagine that he hears the volume, rather than the content of the vitriol from the stands every time this happens, and is thereby encouraged to repeat the exercise.
Yet for all his infuriating meandering around the halfway line, he does occasionally show some energy and inventiveness in the final third. He showed last week that when the mood grabs him he is capable of doing it against the best in the world; now wouldn’t it be just peachy if he decided to turn over a new leaf, starting with Wigan at home, and took that mentality into every game (or at least every home game)?
Before the weekend’s games kicked off we were fourth, which rocks, and exceeded AANP’s pre-season aim (top six, lest ye be interested). However, since Modders limped off stage left, performances have been rather scratchy, culminating in a good hour of the cursed long-ball last time out against Sunderland. Therefore, the modest wish-list from AANP Towers is simply that three points are garnered, by a healthy margin and in exhilarating, easy-on-the eye style.
The rumoured return to the side of Lennon would be a step in the right direction, but as ever, the focal point of pre-match chatter will be whether and how Keane will be accommodated. Results have gone our way so far this weekend, and Wigan at home (with all due respect) is a perfect opportunity to further those delusions of grandeur, which we have been nurturing so carefully this season.
s ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the other players to be featured: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here