Arsenal Women play last season’s WSL runners-up Manchester City at Meadow Park on Sunday. Tim Stillman caught up with Gunners striker and Ballon D’Or nominee Vivianne Miedema to preview the top of the table clash, exclusively for Arseblog News.
Last weekend as Arsenal’s 4-0 Conti Cup victory over Charlton drifted towards conclusion, Vivianne Miedema sat on the ground rubbing her calf and signalling to the bench. Her fitness ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City remains in the balance. Before we start the interview at a wet and dreary London Colney, I ask Viv how her calf is.
“It hasn’t fallen off yet,” she says in her typically ironic style. Miedema has an economy with words that makes her a fascinating interview. Just over three weeks ago she confidently told me that the FIFA Best Awards were “just a popularity contest” and her omission from the FIFPRO World XI was “a joke.” She says what she means and she means what she says.
After the defeat to Chelsea a fortnight ago, Miedema stops short of calling Sunday’s clash a must-win, “We are only five games in, it is too early for that. We lost to Manchester City and Chelsea once each last season and still won the league quite easily,” she ponders. However, the importance of the game is not lost on her or her teammates in the quest to regain their WSL crown.
“As a player you want to see yourself against the best teams in the world and Manchester City are easily one of the top 5 teams in Europe right now. On one hand, you get that special feeling before a game like this, as a player these are the ones you look forward to. But on the other hand, you do kinda have to treat it like any other game and prepare yourself like you always would,” she explains, often slipping into the slightly Scottish lilt her accent has developed.
Aye she’s wan eh us ?????????
— emma mitchell (@emsmitch3) October 16, 2019
City follow Sunday’s trip to Arsenal with a trip to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, having drawn the home leg 1-1 last week. Centre-half Aoife Mannion fell victim to the ACL curse that blights the women’s game this week, Ellen White is fit but hasn’t played since the World Cup due to a knee injury and midfielder Kiera Walsh is suspended. I ask if it’s a good time to play City.
“It is always a good time to play Manchester City!” she smiles, but she dismisses the idea that the Gunners have an advantage going into the game, “No matter how we are or how they are, it’s always going to be a really tight game. After the Chelsea game, I am glad the next league game is against City because we’re even more motivated to show our true selves and we didn’t do that at Chelsea.”
In the wake of that Chelsea defeat, Arsenal got back on track with a 5-2 Champions League win against Slavia Praha, in which Miedema bagged four goals, followed by a 4-0 win over Charlton in the Conti Cup. The Dutch striker pinpoints the victory in Prague as particularly crucial in exorcising the Chelsea defeat.
As easy as 1⃣, 2⃣, 3⃣, 4⃣????
— #UWCL (@UWCL) October 22, 2019
“When you lose a game like the Chelsea one, you want another one straight away. We played good football for 70 minutes and it was a shame we conceded two at the end, the Charlton game continued that. It was important to get back to winning ways, but also to get back to playing our football and getting that confidence back.”
It is interesting that Miedema talks about the team “playing football” as opposed to her four goal salvo. I have always held a theory that Viv, who started her career as a number 10, is not especially motivated by scoring goals despite the sheer amount of them that she plunders. Her creative game is hugely underrated, as she drops off between the lines and often picks out teammates as they run into the space she vacates.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) October 2, 2019
I put my theory to her that scoring goals isn’t her prime motivator. “I have lots of freedom at Arsenal and if you watch my games, yeah, I would say I play more like a 10. I know I have my goalscoring qualities, but I like setting people up. I like to drop and pick up the ball and see if I can send someone through on goal.
“I like to see if there is someone in a better position than me. I am not bothered if I don’t score for one or two games if I know I have assisted others or that I have played well.” She admits that her mindset is much more that of a 10 than a 9, “I love football,” she smiles. “I am a big football fan.
“My favourite thing is having the ball with the pitch in front of me and seeing who is running and where. I don’t feel under pressure to score here, because we’ve so many players who make those runs and can score goals.” Come Sunday afternoon at Boreham Wood, Miedema and co will hope to have Manchester City on the run.
Sunday’s game against Manchester City is on BT Sport in the UK and kicks off at 2.30pm. If you are outside of the UK, you can watch it live for free on the FA Player app. Viewers in Central America can watch on Sky Mexico, whilst those in Scandinavia can watch on NENT.