Arsenal academy defender Mark McGuinness has signed his first professional contract with the club, after impressing at the back in recent weeks.

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Mark McGuinness of Arsenal celebrates following his team's victory in the Fourth Round FA Youth Cup match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Meadow Park on January 17, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – JANUARY 17: Mark McGuinness of Arsenal celebrates following his team’s victory in the Fourth Round FA Youth Cup match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Meadow Park on January 17, 2019, in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced on Wednesday that McGuinness had signed his first professional deal, eight years after joining the club as a 10-year-old. The 6’4″ Irish centre-back has made 18 appearances for the u18s this season, only missing one game since he came into the starting lineup on 15th September in a 1-0 win over Southampton.

Since then, the defender has played in 16 wins and just two defeats, even getting on the scoresheet three times.

McGuinness’ club form even earned him a first call-up to the Republic of Ireland u19 side recently. He appeared from the bench in the first two games of the international break, before starting and scoring in a 2-0 victory over Russia.

As well as his knack for scoring from set-pieces, McGuinness has a good physical presence at the back. He’s great at coming out to contest and win aerial duels, but he also knows how to keep his position and win tackles and make interceptions when the ball is on the ground.

The main problem for the centre-back so far has been injuries. He had a tough 2017/18, only playing one match thanks to various problems, and then had a minor setback at the start of the current campaign. Fortunately, he’s been fine since then. From a footballing perspective, he certainly seems ready to make the step up to the u23s next season.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.