Thompson was schooled with some of England's finest and is looking to make an impact at Town
- Credit: ITFC/PA
Ipswich Town have signed left-back Dominic Thompson on loan from Brentford until the end of the season. Andy Warren profiles the Blues' newest arrival.
Born in Willesden, north west London, Town’s newest signing grew up in a sporting family, with his father Neville and brother Greg both competing internationally in the discus.
Football has been Thompson’s calling, though, and he joined Arsenal’s academy in 2012 while still at primary school, initially beginning his time there as a central midfielder.
Left back soon became his position, though, and he progressed through the Gunners’ youth system to win a professional deal in June of 2018.
Progress continued at the Emirates, with the defender part of a talented youth side which included the likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith-Rowe, who worked their way from the Under 18s to the Under 23s together.
Thompson was an unused substitute in the Gunners’ four EFL Trophy games during the first half of the 2018/19 season, led by boss Freddie Ljungberg, while he was also a travelling reserve for what proved to be a dead rubber Europa League game against Vorskla Poltava of Ukraine. He didn’t make the bench, but the experience will certainly have been a positive one.
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He was involved in first-team friendlies against Angers (France), Colorado Rapids and Fiorentina in the summer of 2019, alongside the likes of Mesut Ozil, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Grant Xhaka, but that’s where his Arsenal journey ultimately came to an end.
A new journey
Before the start of the 2019/20 campaign, Thompson was sold to Brentford in a deal said to be in the region of between £1m-£3m, depending on which report you read.
He signed on for three years at Griffin Park, at a time when the Bees were looking to win promotion to the Premier League.
He said at the time: “Brentford are a big club, play good football and off the back of a good pre-season with Arsenal I was thinking ‘wow, this is a good opportunity’.
“The style of play here suits me. I grew up as a midfielder and then changed to left-back, so I’m calm, brave and comfortable on the ball and am aware of my surroundings. I have good versatility.
“I like to work hard defensively and I take it personally if someone gets past me. I don’t like to let that happen very much. But if the situation is all set I like to help out in attack too.
“I want to settle in quickly and make an impact on the team as fast as possible.”
Sat behind Rico Henry in the Brentford pecking order, teenager Thompson wasn’t able to break into the team as quickly as he would have liked, making just 12 appearances for the Bees during his first two seasons at the club.
But Thomas Frank knew he had a talented player on his hands.
A loan move to Swindon in January of 2021 gave Thompson the platform to play consistent senior football for the first time.
And it couldn’t have started any better, making his debut for the Robins and playing a vital role in their 3-2 victory over Paul Lambert’s men at Portman Road. He was the visitors’ stand-out player, directly assisting their first two goals before playing a role in the build-up to the winning third.
“It was a bit of a dream debut,” he said after the game. “I think the only things that were missing were a goal and a clean sheet.
“On an individual level, I haven’t enjoyed football the way I did in that game in a very, very long time - probably since playing with my friends.
“The confidence that I felt in that game off of every touch.
“One assist was a really good ball, if I do say so myself, but the two others were good strikes from my teammates who gifted me two other assists. It was an amazing feeling.”
He was a regular for the rest of the season, making 25 appearances in total but never hitting the heights of his debut again. There’s a sense amongst Swindon supporters that that was down to the team’s negative tactics under manager John Sheridan, rather than Thompson’s performances.
He was used at left-back and also in more advanced roles by Sheridan, which is perhaps a glimpse of what he can offer at Ipswich.
At the end of his Swindon loan, Thompson said: “I think I have learned a lot about how to manage games in certain situations.
“Sometimes you have to do the nasty side of the game a lot more, especially if you’re in the position that we were in and have been since I’ve been here.
“Sometimes, from an individual standpoint, I’ve maybe tried to over play or do things that don’t fit in the context of the game.
“So I’ve got to build on my game management, and even communication as well. I need to try and be a leader out there.
“If the pitch goes a bit quiet, I can be changing things and stop any more bad happening. That comes from being a leader, and it doesn’t matter how old you are.”
Thompson returned to Brentford in the summer, with his club preparing for their first Premier League season.
Achieving a dream
Thompson grew up dreaming of a Premier League debut in an Arsenal shirt, having supported the Gunners as a boy despite his dad’s desire for him to follow Chelsea.
But he achieved his dream in a Brentford shirt at the end of December, starting matches with Brighton and Manchester City and being named man-of-the-match in the second of those.
He’s also made three cup appearances for Brentford this season, with his side scoring a total of 14 goals across those games.
He still clearly has a role to play at the Premier League club, but a desire for regular football from both him and the club has seen him move to Ipswich.
Prior to the loan, Brentford took out their option to extend Thompson’s contract until the end of the 2022/23 season.
Brentford’s director of football, Phil Giles, said: “Dom has done well for us in the minutes he has played so far this season, especially in our home game against Manchester City.
“Unfortunately, he hasn’t played as much as I’m sure he would have wanted, so a loan to a good club such as Ipswich is an ideal solution.
“We look forward to welcoming him back in the summer, having extended his contract by a further year.”
So, where does he fit in at Town?
Well, boss Kieran McKenna has discussed just how well Thompson’s attributes fit into the Blues’ 3-4-3 system, with the Brentford loanee able to offer defensive qualities and attacking threat with good balance.
Wes Burns is a locked-in starter on the right, but the Blues still need an answer on the left.
He trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Friday morning and, with Matt Penney and Hayden Coulson both coming back from injury and Kane Vincent-Young suspended, he surely will be in consideration for an immediate start at Sheffield Wednesday this weekend.
A debut like his Swindon one would do just fine.
Given he grew up playing as a central midfielder, he could also provide cover there as the Blues look to get both Idris El Mizouni and Rekeem Harper out on loan before Monday’s transfer deadline.
Does he also have the qualities to act as cover on the left-side of McKenna’s central defensive three?
Janoi Donacien, a natural right-back, has taken to his new role on the right of that three like a duck to water.
Thompson seems to possess the tools to do the same on the left if he is needed.