The England and Arsenal speedster explains to FourFourTwo the benefits of weight training on acceleration and its value across the pitch.
Acceleration is one of the best parts of your game. How did you work on your speed off the mark?
When I was younger, I worked on building power and strength in my legs to boost explosive acceleration off the mark and it really helped. If you want to be quick off the mark, this is something I would focus on because acceleration can make all the difference on the pitch.
What advantage has this given you?
It gives you an advantage in crucial areas of the game, gaining half a yard to get a shot off or whip in a cross. Acceleration is the most important thing about speed because it enables you to get to the ball first and you can get away from players. Football is a game made up of short, sharp bursts of speed. At Arsenal we work on explosive power, but a lot of things we do are focused on injury prevention and maintaining what we already have. If we have an area of weakness we will go and work on that individually with the physio or fitness coach. It's more to do with what you need as an individual rather than everyone doing the same thing. Some people are naturally very powerful and the last thing they want to do is weights and get even bigger. They might need to do more core work. Some people are slimmer and not as powerful and they need to do more power training.
What sort of difference can speed endurance make out on the pitch?
If you're someone that can still produce your top speed in the 90th minute you're going to be a massive asset to your team. How many times do you see teams score important goals in the dying moments? Being able to produce quality and speed from the first minute to the last is crucial. At Arsenal we do a lot of fartlek training, like box-to-box runs, which involve a strong run, followed by a jog, followed by a strong run and so on.
How valuable is speed to a footballer?
Speed is vital. If you're quick you can beat players to the ball and burst away from defenders. When you're in a foot race, keep your head up and arms by your side, driving your knees forward and high, focusing on generating power in your strides. But pace isn't all about running speed; it's about speed of thought. Santi Cazorla is one the slowest over 40 metres, but he's one of our best players because his decision-making is so fast and so decisive.
Arsenal are set to play back-to-back blockbusters in 2017 against Sydney FC on Thursday 13 July at ANZ Stadium and Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday 15 July at the same venue.