Saturday, April 20, 2024

Vivianne Miedema: The Best Striker in the World

Arsenal striker and Dutch international Vivianne Miedema is widely regarded as not only one of the best players in the WSL, but one of the best players in the world.

She has proven herself time and time again, stepping up when her teammates need her, and providing endless contributions throughout her career so-far. But just how good is Vivianne Miedema?

Her story

Unsurprisingly, Miedema grew up head over heels for football. A Feyenoord fan through-and-through, she idolised Dutch legend Robin Van Persie, the all-time leading goalscorer for the Netherlands men’s team, a stat I will refer back to soon.

A young Vivianne Miedema alongside her idol, Robin Van Persie

Miedema, with her father and her younger brother Lars, would often travel 120 miles from Hoogeveen to Rotterdam to watch Feyenoord play at De Kuip; her love and dedication to football, from an early age, was apparent.

She joined her first team at the tender age of just 5. Like many young girls, Miedema grew up playing alongside boys with club HZVV, before she moved on to VV De Weide.

Early career

Aged 15, Vivianne Miedema made her senior professional debut in the Eredivisie, the top tier of women’s football in the Netherlands, for SC Heerenveen. It was here, at this difficult level, that her talent truly began to shine through.

Playing week-in week-out against grown women, Miedema maintained an unbelievable goalscoring record. She spent 3 full seasons at the club, playing 69 games and bagging an outstanding 78 goals.

Her next move was a big commitment, leaving her homeland for neighbours Germany and Bayern Munich, where she would get off to a difficult start as a result of the language barrier.

Miedema struggled in Germany

A very talented technical striker, Miedema struggled to find her feet at Bayern, who played long and sometimes ugly football, which didn’t fit her play style at all.

Despite this, Miedema continued to put up more than admirable numbers, with 35 in 61 still giving her an average healthily above a goal every other game.

Miedema at Arsenal

In 2017, Vivianne Miedema completed a move to Arsenal in the WSL, regarded by many as the toughest league in women’s football.

In her first season in red and white, Miedema managed just 4 goals and 2 assists, albeit in 9 starts. This is the lowest scoring season of her career, and it saw her with 0.63 goals and assists per 90.

Despite an underwhelming season (by her very high standards), Miedema still produced the goods when her team needed it the most: the FA WSL Cup final.

Vivianne Miedema with the FA WSL Cup trophy

She scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory against domestic rivals Manchester City to seal the win for Arsenal. This was her first piece of silverware in England, and Arsenal’s 5th FA WSL Cup in 7 years.

Miedema’s next season in North London was by far her best, and the stats from 2018/19 are truly outstanding as she helped Arsenal become WSL champions.

In just 20 league matches, she racked up 22 goals and 10 assists. That’s 32 direct goal contributions in as little as 20 matches, and 1.62 goals and assists per 90.

Miedema’s stats are impressive for any striker, but even more so when you consider she has never taken a penalty for Arsenal. Every single one of her goals have come from open play.

The Gunners didn’t just win the league, they stormed the league, finishing with a record of 20 wins, 2 draws and 0 losses, marking their first WSL title since 2012.

Dutch duo Miedema and Van Dijk with their respective PFA awards

Vivianne Miedema was named PFA Women’s Player of the Year alongside fellow Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk, who took home the respective men’s award.

In the following WSL season, Miedema came up with the goods yet again, though she played considerably less games for the Gunners in the 2019/20 campaign.

In 14 games, Miedema scored 16 goals with a further 8 assists. She was influential in the biggest WSL victory ever when Arsenal defeated Bristol City 11-1.

On this day, she was well and truly unstoppable, finding the net 6 times and setting up her teammates on 4 occasions, all before she left the pitch more than 20 minutes before full-time.

This brings us to now. Today, Miedema scored and assisted in Arsenal’s much-needed 4-0 triumph over Birmingham City, the latest game in what has been a more than underwhelming season for the Gunners under the helm of Joe Montemurro.

In a team that have struggled, rivals and critics believe that Miedema simply isn’t doing enough to help drag them out of their mess yet, despite her not being at her best, she is still the league’s top scorer with 13 in 14 games, and that is the showing of a world-class player.

National team

When I mentioned earlier that Robin Van Persie is the all-time Netherlands men’s leading goalscorer, I said I would refer back to this stat, because it really helps amplify the comprehension of the level that Vivianne Miedema performs at.

Miedema is already the Netherlands top scorer

At just 22 years of age, Miedema became the Netherlands all time leading goalscorer. Not just with the women’s team, but the men’s, too. She has scored more goals for her country than her idol across his entire career.

Robin Van Persie totalled an impressive 50 goals in orange, and it’s no wonder why Miedema looked up to him so highly; he was a player of the very highest quality.

On the 15th July 2019, she scored her 60th goal for the Netherlands to surpass Manon Melis’ tally of 59. Her total now stands at a potentially unreachable 71 in 93 fixtures.

For a 24 year old, all of these numbers are frightening and her future is so exciting. She has broken so many records already, and I am certain she will both continue to break more, and make her own far harder to reach.

In 2017, the Netherlands both hosted and won the Women’s Euros, with Miedema unsurprisingly playing an important role, despite being just 20 years old.

Vivianne Miedema decisively struck the back of the net twice in the final to help her country overcome Denmark 4-2, who went ahead in the game in just the 7th minute.

Vivianne Miedema kisses the Euros trophy in the Netherlands

Playing style

Despite scoring such an overwhelming amount of goals, Miedema is far from an out-and-out striker, with the Dutchwoman having grown up operating as a creative number 10.

This is very noticeable both when you look at her assist figures, and when you watch her play. She is very unselfish, always looking up with the ball and keeping an eye out for every potential ball.

In fact, Miedema is “not bothered about scoring goals at all.” She acknowledges that if she was more selfish on the pitch, her goal scoring tally would be even more record breaking, and that this is something she needs to work on.

The Arsenal star often drops deep to collect the ball and help build up the attack with her impressive passing range, yet still consistently finds herself in golden scoring opportunities.

Her movement in the box is second to none, which not only makes it easier for herself to finish the chances that come her way, but for her teammates to pick her out.

Vivianne Miedema is a defender’s nightmare

This is often a criticism of hers; rivals and critics alike argue that all of her goals come from inside the box which, whilst not true, also is less of a compliment, and more of an appreciation of her world class movement.

She has proven her ability from outside the box on multiple occasions though, if you can get yourself into easier positions to score, why wouldn’t you?

The Dutch international is also very strong with her weaker left foot, having dedicated hours to specifically training it to be as good as her right growing up.

Overall, she is an incredibly useful asset for Arsenal, who will be working their absolute socks off to tie her down at the club, and have her commit her future in North London.

Whether she stays or she leaves for a fresh challenge elsewhere, one thing will forever remain: Vivianne Miedema will be firing in the goals for years to come, and will continue to shatter records left right and centre.

For me, she is the greatest striker (and potentially the greatest player) on the planet right now, and with her present level so prolific, the heights she could reach in the future are frightening.

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