Dubliner weighing up either a move to set her up for the rest of her career or a commitment to remain part of a Gunners side seeking to regain their place at the pinnacle
Transfer deadline day is closing in but, aside from the navel-gazing atop the Premier League, arguably the most sensational story to emerge in recent days is in the women’s game – and it involves the biggest name in Irish soccer.
Not that many people might have noticed, as the allegedly audacious bid from Chelsea for World Cup-bound captain and Arsenal stalwart Katie McCabe has gone under the radar on these shores, with seemingly more interest in what Newcastle United are doing with their ill-gotten investment gains.
The player has said nothing, Arsenal have dismissed the potential swoop and Chelsea have also seemingly distanced themselves, yet supporters of both clubs have exploded in passionate fervour about the intriguing possibility.
And, with both clubs locked in a fascinating title race in the Women’s Super League, while still in FA Cup and Champions League contention, it has added another layer of intrigue to a captivating rivalry.
According to a number of sources, some sort of approach, whether informal or not, has been made and a figure of stg£250,000 has been mooted for a player who still has 18 months left to run in her contract.
McCabe has been a consistent performer for Arsenal though in the last 18 months has not always been guaranteed a starting berth; ironically, Australian Steph Catley, who will confront her in the summer World Cup opener in Sydney, has occasionally elbowed her from the starting line-up.
On Sunday, as Arsenal cruised to a 9-0 FA Cup win against Leeds, the Arsenal fans cheered McCabe to the rafters as she excelled down either wing.
“We hate Chelsea. We have Katie McCabe”. It is clear they do not want their darling of Dublin to leave.
Nor does her boss, Jonas Eidevall.
"I didn’t speak to Katie about that," he said. "Me and Katie have never spoken about her leaving. We only speak about what we can create here at Arsenal. There is absolutely no chance of that move happening."
For her part, Emma Hayes, the admirable Chelsea boss who is never averse to shooting straight from the hip, she was just as forthright.
"I've said all along. There will be no players coming in and I won't be changing that perspective. This was always maintained that it would be a quiet window for us," she said.
When pressed, she doubled down.
"I don't discuss rumours. I don't talk about other players. I've told you there'll be no players coming in," Hayes insisted.
So that’s that? Not quite, as the bush telegraph in England insists that there is no smoke without fire and, with no white smoke emanating from the McCabe camp, Arsenal fans will keep sweating until the Sky Sports countdown clock hits zero.
McCabe’s last public comment was an Instagram post from last week, declaring that a big week lay ahead, attaching two emojis, one indicating a cold weather front, another a red circle.
Fans will hope they don’t indicate that she is cooling her relationship with the red-clad Gooners.
Others have alighted upon her reiteration last year that she was a Chelsea fan growing up, leading to some foul-mouthed banter between fans on a variety of social media sites.
"I blame my older brother for that because he was a big Chelsea fan,” she said last year.
“I was led down a bad path. The minute I got over to Arsenal, you realise the size of the club, and you develop a love for the club. Arsenal are my club. I've come to my senses."
We asked McCabe about the uncertainty of her Arsenal role last summer during Ireland’s qualification campaign, ahead of the current Women’s Super League campaign, and she was characteristically determined about her commitment to niggling down; she relishes the competitive edge.
“Playing for a club like Arsenal, you know there is going to be world class talent in every position,” she said then.
“I know and understand my qualities to be able to compete consistently within training and then when you get your opportunity to play you make sure you do something to hold your position.
“Steph is a fantastic player. To have competition like that, it only benefits both of us. We continue to push each other. She has got fantastic qualities in her left foot and so do I. I think it only benefits us in the long run to keep that competition up.
“Jonas moved me higher as well towards the end of last season, which I enjoyed too, I always like being in the final third and creating goal scoring opportunities. Look, it’s good.
“We’ll see how things go at the start of July. I’m probably a versatile player. I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing at times.
“But for me, wherever I play, whether with Ireland or Arsenal, whether it’s left wing, left wing back or left back, or even right wing - who know. It’s all good.”
It hasn’t always been plain sailing but it is some time – six years in fact – since she was last unsettled.
Before the landmark Scotland win which clinched qualification last year, she alluded to her time at Arsenal under former club coach Pedro Martinez Losa, who was in the Scottish dugout in Hampden, and didn’t seem to fancy McCabe.
“I’m still here to this day representing Arsenal, which I absolutely love,” she said in Glasgow on the eve of her greatest night in a green shirt. The message that she had endured longer than the Spaniard was pointed.
All told, McCabe has been at Arsenal for eight years after a glittering domestic career, winning five major trophies with Raheny United.
Although her position is not guaranteed, her importance in Arsenal’s multiple trophy tilt cannot be underestimated, given her ability to play in multiple positions, and the facility with which she can roam into the number ten role.
Nonetheless, Chelsea, upon whose behalf owner Todd Boehly has already splurged over €400m on the under-achieving men’s side, would represent an upgrade as they have won eight trophies in the same time as Arsenal have won just one – a 2019 title - and her signing would signal a real statement of intent in the London turf war.
It’s uncertain whether this could be the opening gambit in contract negotiations but perhaps all will be revealed on Tuesday.
If she is indeed confronted with a decision, it is at once a test of personal loyalty but also professional reality.
Either a move to set her up for the rest of her career or a commitment to remain part of an Arsenal side seeking to regain their place at the pinnacle of their sport.
In a huge year for her national side, Irish supporters will be hoping that, wherever her future lies, it does not impact on her readiness to lead Vera Pauw’s side into their historic maiden international tournament.