Meet Vivianne Miedema, the Women's Super League record-breaker
The Arsenal and Netherlands striker is a footballer in a hurry
Vivianne Miedema is a footballer in a hurry. At 15 years of age she made the step up to the senior team at SC Heerenveen, before moving to Bayern Munich in 2014 where she twice lifted the Bundesliga trophy.
In 2017 she joined Arsenal and, with seven games left to play in this season’s FA Women's Super League, the 22-year-old has already broken the division's goalscoring record - netting her 16th of the campaign against Reading last Sunday.
But Miedema isn't finished there.
"The ideal picture would be winning the league, winning the FA Cup and playing in the World Cup," Miedema tells JOE, sitting in a chilly changing room at The Maurice Rebak Stadium in Finchley, north London.
"I think as a footballer you always want to be the best, but I don’t really care about individual prizes. Right now I’m focused on winning trophies with Arsenal. I’m more worried about winning trophies at club level and international level rather than individual prizes."
Since arriving at Arsenal, Miedema has already won the Continental Cup 2018, and intends to add many more trophies to her collection having signed a new contract before Christmas.
Leaving a dominant Bayern side to join the Gunners raised a few eyebrows, but she is in no doubt that it was the right move, citing a more cultured style of play as one of her main motivations to come to the Women's Super League.
“I had three good years at Bayern. We won the title twice. I think at that moment the German league was the best in the world probably. But I don’t know, I missed something.
“The way we played football was long balls. It didn’t matter how you won the games, as long as you won them. I started looking around and I had more options and when I came to Arsenal I had that feeling.
“I want to have the ball a lot, so that was the most important thing. [Chasing long balls] was all I had done in Munich for three years. So I was really happy to come here and play football - and we’re doing quite well right now.”
As a Feyenoord fan during her childhood, she has always followed the career of Robin van Persie, and the opportunity to emulate her hero’s success was too good to turn down.
“Van Persie was my biggest idol ever. So the moment Arsenal came in, you’ve got that special feeling as well,” she explains.
With seven years’ experience of senior football, Miedema demonstrates maturity beyond her years both on and off the pitch.
The 22-year-old is only six goals away from equaling Manon Melis’ all-time goalscoring record for the Netherlands Women’s team, with 54 strikes so far for the Oranje.
In 2017, she helped fire the national team to a maiden European Championship title, claiming a brace in the final against Denmark.
But Miedema is keen to play down expectations of repeating that success in France this summer at the World Cup.
“I should say I’m really confident but I’m not,” she admits.
“It was really hard for us after the Euros to qualify directly again, to handle the pressure. We had to go through the play-offs against Denmark and Switzerland. Even right now, people are saying ‘you’re going to be world champions’ - but it’s too easy to say.
“I think it’s a really open tournament, with probably France, USA, Germany, Japan - they’re always the favourites. I would say we are a good outsider. We’ve got a good team and we know what we can do. If that comes out at the right moment, we can have a good World Cup.
Handling this pressure - “a good pressure”, in her words - is something Miedema is still adapting to.
“Right now yeah, I feel pressure. Before it didn’t really matter what you were doing but right now, we’re so big, everyone knows us, so you always feel a bit more pressure playing, especially in Holland.
“There’s 40,000 people at the stadium for every game, and everyone’s got an opinion about the players. It gives you a lot more pressure. Going into the World Cup, they’re like ‘oh, you won the Euros, you’ll easily win the World Cup as well’.
"We weren’t favourites to win the Euros, we’re not even close to being favourites to win the World Cup, but people expect it from you.
“I think it’s something we need to adapt to. The team has been struggling, but it’s also really nice to get that experience and that feeling of people under pressure, like when people are watching us, it’s a good pressure."
The Oranje haven’t always enjoyed such big attendances, but their triumph in the European Championship sparked a welcome surge in popularity.
Miedema also sees her role as being more than a player on the pitch, co-writing a book, Het Meidenvoetbal Doeboek (The Girl’s Football Book), with the aim of inspiring the next generation of female footballers in Holland.
She believes there is still a long way to go in developing the women’s game, with investment a major factor in its continued growth.
“Obviously it’s easy to just say money, but everything stands and falls with money," Miedema explains.
"There’s a lot of money here in England, and you can see it growing the women’s game. The FA puts a lot of money into women’s football and you can already see the league getting stronger. Even for Arsenal, everything just gets better; we can train at the men’s ground, the pitch at our stadium. It is money, in the end.”
This money attracts stars from abroad to come to the WSL, improving the quality of football and thus bringing bigger crowds to matches.
“The German league is getting worse at the moment, so a lot of players come to England, which makes the league really strong and all we need to work on right now is people coming to the games.
“We played Chelsea in a sold out stadium, I think there were around 3,500 people there, so the stadium is becoming too small and that’s the most important thing for us right now.
"If I compare it to Holland, we didn’t have any people coming to the games but we won the Euros, so right now we get sold out stadiums. That is the next step we need to make in women’s football, as people get attracted to the game and it gets more acceptance.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Miedema is fully focused on having the best possible season with Arsenal, and keeping fit before the World Cup.
“The most important thing for us is to get into the Champions League next year, which means finishing in the top two. From there, my focus is on the World Cup - but I just hope I stay fit and that I can help Arsenal and the national team.”
Vivianne Miedema wears the adidas X18 boots, available from https://www.adidas.co.uk/football-shoes