Katie McCabe says everyone is running more under new Arsenal Women’s boss Jonas Eidevall, and she relishes the competition within the squad.
Daily Cannon had the chance to speak to Arsenal Women’s left-back Katie McCabe this week, following Arsenal’s new partnership with STATSports. Among other things, we discussed the changes under the new manager and friendly internal rivalries.
As an explainer for anyone who isn’t aware, the Arsenal squad wear vests with GPS trackers in training and matches, to collect data on physical performance.
For an in-depth look at the new deal, check our interview with STATSports’ Barry Watters.
Even before this official partnership, the Arsenal Women have been using the trackers for five or six years now, and Katie jokes they’re “non-negotiable”, before adding that everyone likes them really.
“I think everyone enjoys seeing your output in a game,” the 26-year-old tells me. “Especially if it’s going to be an intense game, whether it’s a top of the table clash or someone lower down the table.
“Look at the game on Sunday. Obviously Everton are a well-structured side, and they’ve got a lot of quality in their team. I think the game for me was obviously physically demanding, transitional at times.
“You’re going to be working from box to box, especially with how we play.
“If you compare that to a side where you’re going to have a lot of the ball and be dominating in their half, you would see maybe your high-speed running wouldn’t be as high.”
This new partnership is opening up opportunities for the public to compare themselves to the players. But it’s not just the public who will be making those comparisons, as Katie tells me there’s already some competition between her teammates.
“We get sent our data from a game the next day after the guys have had a look at it,” Katie explains. “There would be an inkling of having a look at what you covered, your total distance, your high-speed running, your acceleration and deceleration metrics.
“Especially in training, when we’re doing speed stuff, when we’re exposed to high-speed running, you would be having a look at the iPad and seeing ‘were you faster or was I faster?’ and it does increase that level of competitiveness.”
McCabe was Arsenal’s top assist provider in the WSL last season with 11, three ahead of Beth Mead. This season, the two of them are neck and neck on three each following the game at the weekend. I ask if there’s a rivalry building there.
“Yeah, there’s always that competitiveness,” Katie answers. That’s the beauty of football, isn’t it? I think having players like that within the squad brings out the best in you and increases your game up to another level.
“I’ve got really high quality, world-class players around me every day in training, so you want to compare and be up there amongst it.
“Me and Beth had the craic last year regarding the assists, but I’m just happy to be contributing to goals and assists but more importantly winning games.”
With the access the players now have to their performance data, I wonder what changes they’ve noticed under the new manager.
“I think everyone’s running a lot more!” Katie says. “Obviously that’s down to how Jonas wants us playing.
“He plays with a high level of intensity and front-foot pressing and counter-pressing and so you would see a lot more distance covered within the whole team.
“And again, going back to that high-speed running, people would be running faster for longer periods due to how he wants to play.”
Of course, this sort of data is still relatively new, particularly in the women’s game. I suggest that it could really start to change the way the game is played.
“Yeah, I think there’s loads of benefits to it,” Katie agrees. “One being we can monitor our progress and our load in the middle of the week to push on at the weekend.
“It becomes more professional in the sense that our data coaches can monitor what we do within a week and really look at injury prevention as well.
“I think if you’re looking at the data that STATSports’ GPS gives us from a loading perspective, our coaches can see whether we’re overloaded or underloaded and can avoid injuries from that.
“I think since stats have been more involved in the women’s game, there has been a real increase in the professional side of things.
“It makes you more conscious of how you can affect the game.”
As mentioned earlier, one of the key selling points of Arsenal’s new partnership with STATSports is that fans and aspiring players will get the chance to compare themselves directly against the professionals. Katie appears particularly enthused by this.
“I think it’s brilliant. If you were to say to me when I was younger that I could compare myself to who was playing at that time, legends that I looked up to, I’d be ecstatic about it.
“So the fact that STATSports has brought that in, when you’ve got kids that can compare themselves to players that they look up to is absolutely brilliant.”
And does she have any advice for those young future stars?
“I think not to take it too seriously in a sense. Obviously, it’s a growth process. I’m not where I am today without the ups and downs throughout my career.
“So I would say not to take it too literally but to enjoy the process of increasing their fitness and speed levels.”
The new STATSports Arsenal FC Edition is available from the 18th October at www.statsports.com/arsenal