Arsenal’s Republic of Ireland U21 international defender Mark McGuinness has spent the first half of the 2020/21 season with League One promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town. The Suffolk side snapped up McGuinness on a season-long loan following an impressive solo display in the Gunners’ under-23 side which defeated Ipswich at Portman Road in the EFL Trophy. How is the 20-year-old centre back faring during his time under Blues boss Paul Lambert?
A steady run of games in an underperforming Tractor Boys side
At the time of writing, McGuinness has been involved in 16 games in League One at the halfway stage of Ipswich’s promotion bid. Unfortunately for him and his team-mates, they are stuttering worryingly having started the campaign at the top of the table in a rich vein of form. They now find themselves in tenth place, trying desperately to hang onto the coattails of the top six. Boss, Paul Lambert is under increasing pressure and scrutiny with fans too. The odds on the latest football events provide outright markets and things don’t look too great for Town: they’re now 90/1 with Betfair to win the league and even 12/1 to get a promotion in any way.
Learning from Town’s veteran full-backs
McGuinness has largely been a relatively steady and imposing influence at the heart of the Ipswich defence. The main blot on his copybook came against Peterborough United when he sliced a cross into his own net, under pressure from the Posh frontmen. He scored his first career league goal in a narrow win at Burton Albion too. McGuinness has always proven to be an aerial threat from attacking set-plays in the Arsenal teams and Town fans witnessed this in action at the Pirelli Stadium.
Ipswich’s well-travelled full-backs, Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward have both waxed lyrical about the potential of Mark McGuinness. Chambers urged the Irish youngster not to worry about his error against Peterborough, insisting that small mistakes are part and parcel of learning as a defender at senior level.
Unsurprisingly, his distribution is also one of his strong points, with the ability to pick out a pass into midfield or attack. This has proven to be particularly important for Ipswich given their adoption of a possession-based style this season.
A promising partnership with Ipswich’s homegrown centre half
Much of McGuinness’ time in the Ipswich first team has been spent alongside another promising young defender in the shape of Luke Woolfenden. The right-sided centre half came through the Ipswich academy and has recently caught the eye of Premier League side Sheffield United, who were reported to be planning a move for his services last season.
Both Woolfenden and McGuinness are comfortable with the ball at their feet, allowing them to dictate the play from the back and take the pressure off Town keeper, Tomas Holy. Although the Gunners’ hierarchy may have hoped that McGuinness would get game time along with an experienced battle-hardened stopper like Luke Chambers or James Wilson, it’s a testament to his performances so far that the Tractor Boys aren’t missing an old head at the back. It’s quite possible if – and it’s still a big if – Ipswich get promotion back to the second tier that they may be in for McGuinness’ services on a permanent basis.
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