Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema says that she “wasn’t physically and mentally ready” to play earlier this season. The Dutch international was granted some time off in November after speaking with coach Jonas Eidevall about her physical and mental condition.
Miedema spent time in Adelaide in Australia, missing the Gunners’ win at Leicester City and November internationals with Netherlands in the process. She said it gave her a much needed recharge after playing consecutive summer tournaments at the Olympic Games and the Euros, where she was affected badly by covid.
“I had covid during the Euros which I hadn’t fully recovered from,” she told Arseblog News ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League tie with Juventus. “I think some people just get cold like symptoms but I was in bed for ten days with a high fever, I was really sick with it. I needed some time to recover.
“I got through it at the beginning of the season almost on autopilot, because you kind of think ‘I can play in these games and save my energy in these moments’ and that’s it. I missed the October national period through illness again and since then I spoke with Jonas about getting some rest and managing my minutes.
“I just didn’t feel mentally and physically ready to play and you could see it in the way I was playing. I wasn’t enjoying my football in that moment and when you stop enjoying it and you don’t want to go into training in the morning, you need to take a break.
“I spoke with Jonas and my National Team coach Andries (Jonker) and I am just glad they both granted me the time off so I could get away for a few weeks.”
Those tricky feet from @VivianneMiedema 🤯#BarclaysWSL @ArsenalWFC pic.twitter.com/TDcM4KSUbm
— Barclays Women's Super League (@BarclaysWSL) December 4, 2022
Miedema went on to explain that the increasing schedule in women’s football is becoming an issue for players, with a string of top stars currently on the sidelines, including her teammate Beth Mead.
“As a player I was in a fortunate position to be at a club like Arsenal, I also think my name and my experience in the game helped me. I think it’s something a lot of players won’t ask for for themselves. Coaches for National Teams and club football need to be bit more aware of it and instigate it themselves.
“But I hope that me taking the time off I hope it will be good for a few players who don’t feel confident enough to ask for a break and they don’t feel ashamed for needing it, it’s been so non-stop over the last couple of years.
Miedema says she did train in the mornings while she was in Australia. “I didn’t have a pre-season because I had covid this summer, I used that period of time to actually get myself fit. I feel physically a lot fitter now and you have seen that in the recent games. When you are fit again, the game becomes easier for me. I hope ar least I can hold that in the next few games.”
Miedema says she hopes for greater co-operation from the football authorities in addressing the playing schedule. “As a player you want to play in the big tournaments, the difference is we have more international windows in women’s football.
“We play the Olympics with our A team instead of U23s, I think that’s something FIFPRO and FIFA need to start looking at. If they want to make the calendar the same as the men, then we can’t have six international windows when the men have four.
“We don’t have the same numbers in a squad as the men either. If you look at Man City men’s team they have 22-23 amazing first-team players, we have 18-19. They need to start listening to us players and not just basing decisions on money or popularity or marketing. We need to try to come to a solution.
“We need to start protecting the players, people will come to the Emirates to see Leah (Williamson) play and Kim Little play and Beth (Mead) play and I think we need to start realising that players’ protection and safety is the most important thing.”
Miedema looked back to her best during Saturday’s victory over Everton, in which she mustered up seven shots, six on target, one of which was the winning goal. Arseblog News asked Miedema whether having Katie McCabe on the right as an inverted winger, as opposed to Beth Mead running in behind, enabled her to push into more advanced positions.
“To be honest, about four of those shots were from that one corner!” She joked, referring to an incident where she had three shots cleared off the line in a matter of seconds. “The way I want to play my game is to adjust to the players around me, something I picked up in the game easily and quickly was that if Katie does want to receive the ball and come inside, I need to position myself in that opposite pocket.
“As a team we have been working a lot more on shifting the ball from one side to the other and you could see that against Everton over the weekend, we’ve been a bit more patient. The switch of play is where the goal came from as well.
“It’s something that we need to improve but it’s been getting better but I think you can see it’s been getting better in the last couple of games. We have different players in different positions and it’s just about adjusting.”
Thank you, Viv, finally someone from inside confirm what all the fans complain, there is a very small squad, they need more players for such a big number of fixtures, no more excuses.
The fact that it’s more international windows for women than men (6 vs 4) brings Emma Hayes’ comments about the international break travel to mind. She suggested it was the travel that was the biggest injury culprit.
Jonas referenced this too a few days ago. Should also point out that Viv wasn’t just talking about Arsenal’s squad but all squads in elite women’s football. Lyon don’t have a small squad but she pointed out that their injuries have been so damaging for them for the same reasons. It’s all very well griping at your own club to make the squad larger but there aren’t as many female footballers as male footballers. There aren’t enough players for big clubs to have massive squads.
Such credit to the Arsenal staff that they listened to her, and to her for speaking to her needs. Football is a passion for us, but it is a (wonderful) job to them, and everyone needs work-life balance. Player health, both physical and mental, is so often ignored, or pushed past their limits. I remember Mertesacker speaking out about his depression and how the club helped him through it at one point as well. Well done to Arsenal for seeing their players as people, not assets.