As the domestic season draws to a close, awards season begins to hot up, with the very best of the league displayed with all of its goal-laden finishers, creative assistants and all-round impressive performers. Yet as supporters, we must be careful to not just tie these accolades to those with the largest influence across the fanbase. Of course, such players rightly deserve to reap the rewards of their efforts, however, it is important to also recognise the work ethic of those who perhaps do not immediately spring to mind. Players who are so greatly impactful, resulting outcomes would simply be unachievable without their participance.
A player much like Arsenal’s Katie McCabe.
Katie McCabe has been nothing short of a miracle worker for the Gunners thus far. With injuries plaguing Arsenal’s ranks from the offset, McCabe has once again spent the majority of her minutes in a slightly ‘unnatural’ full back position. Yet being principally placed as a left-back has packed with it a box full of positional delicacies that McCabe has quite conspicuously sunk her teeth in to.
An amplified opportunity to challenge one on one, and a heightened commitment to supporting the backline as opponents root through the middle third, has meant that McCabe has to step up in exercising her defensive legs. In true McCabe style, she has done so with a spirited conviction that has kept Arsenal out of trouble on a fair few occasions.
The Republic of Ireland captain, however, harbours an attacking grit that will not be shaken no matter where she is on the pitch. Yet it must be noted that an instinctively progressive fullback can sometimes do more damage than it does good. Typically, you would not expect, nor necessarily want, one of your most prolific attacking outlets to stem from one so deeply lain. Essentially this bares the risk of leaving the centre-backs far too stretched in times of oppositional transition. Yet in this case, it has worked. This not only due to Arsenal’s controlled organisation and the fielding a disciplined holding midfielder but also due to McCabe’s individual pitchside acumen.
After dutifully carrying out her defensive responsibilities and ensuring her closest central defender is able to ‘cover’, there is nothing McCabe likes more than to motor up the wing full throttle. Yet, she is wise with this. Simply, there is no use in dragging play out to a wide area unless there is the organisational means to do so and McCabe demonstrates a fine perception here. She is patient. Gradually pressing as part of a larger unit until either possessional play, or a quick transition offers the opportune time to flood the wing with a fierce overlapping run.
Once McCabe has found her way into the final third, she comes alive. Shirt in, head up, we’re in business. McCabe is able to successfully continue to operate wide or to cut inside with a slick dribble towards the box. Yet, possibly the most remarkable indicator of McCabe’s skill is her ability to seamlessly plant the ball to an exact location with a single touch. With a masterful left foot, it can often times appear that her successor is charged to the current of her pinpoint pass.
This ability to create further evidenced by the stack of statistics in favour of her sharp eye to create. McCabe will end the season with the highest number of assists, plus the highest number of key passes and crosses into the penalty area. And so, one must rather strongly argue McCabe’s case to be broadly recognised for her performances throughout the season. Although the more official voting may not reflect this, there is little doubt that McCabe should very much be a heavy contender for “player of the season”.
Looking forward, Arsenal are set to incur managerial changes over the coming weeks. However, one retains a genuinely positive belief in their cohort and their collective ability to retain standards.
The gunners will be fine; they’ve got Katie McCabe.