Young Arsenal centre-back Mark McGuinness has revealed he hopes to command a spot in Mikel Arteta’s first team next season.
The 20-year-old is currently out on loan with League One’s Ipswich Town, helping them to the second-best defensive record in the division and playing a key role in the team’s push to return to the Championship.
McGuinness had been expected to be playing at a higher level at this point in his career. He was the captain of an Under-18 side that won the Under-18 Premier League South in 2018/19, leading a side which also featured Bukayo Saka, Folarin Balogun and Yunus Musah, only for a nasty run of injuries to slow his momentum right down.
Having managed just four appearances for the Under-23s last year, McGuinness is making up for lost time, and he admitted to football.london that he hopes to fill the void left in the first team by the departures of Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and potentially a handful of other defenders.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “I’ve been at the club since I was ten and that hasn’t changed. I’ve always wanted to play for Arsenal’s first team so that will never change.
“What I’m doing now is experience and hopefully I can kick on. My goal is to come back and try and get myself into the side.
“Obviously there’s other factors with other centre-halves in the first team and things like that, but that doesn’t stop me trying to get into the first team which is what I will try and do. If it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen, but that’s my main goal.”
McGuinness went on to discuss the struggles he faced when recovering from injury, admitting that academy coach Per Mertesacker played a huge part in keeping him positive after so many setbacks.
“It’s my own journey, things happen for a reason and then what’s happened now has been great for me,” he continued. “In fact those injuries I learnt from each one and they never hindered me. They always made me stronger.
“I never felt like I was behind the curve. Yes, I didn’t get the minutes that I wanted to and the exposure, but in terms of my performance I didn’t feel like I was slacking behind anyone. Those injuries were a learning curve and then I feel now being 18 games in I’ve learnt even more. The exposure has been great for me.
“I think Mertesacker also had those injuries as well, I think that was a big part of it. It’s hard for some players when you’re injured to keep positive and see the end goal. But he was there to reassure me and things like that when I was going through those injuries.
“He’s also a very dedicated man. Obviously being a leader as well and that’s something that I would hope to be in the future. Even now I see myself as a leader so just little things like that he’s good to talk to.”