After getting Arsenal back into the UEFA Women’s Champions League, star striker Vivianne Miedema says the aim now is to narrow the gap to holders Lyon.
The French club have been crowned champions of Europe for four seasons running now, most recently seeing off Barcelona with a comfortable 4-1 win in last year’s final.
Chelsea came close to beating them in the semi-finals, but Lyon came through to win by a narrow 3-2 aggregate scoreline.
With this season’s competition kicking off this week, Miedema is excited about playing in it for the first time as an Arsenal player, but she is realistic about what the FA Women’s Super League champions can achieve.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to say that we need to win or that we need to challenge for the Champions League this year,” the striker told Goal.
“We’ve obviously just come back this year. We do have a really strong team but we’re not comparable right now with a Lyon.
“Look at the amount of players they’ve got, the amount of money they spend, but in the next few years we want to close that gap and sooner or later we can look to challenge for the Champions League.”
The Gunners won the competition back in 2007 but have not played among Europe’s elite for the last five seasons, with their league title win this year their first since 2012.
Returning to the Champions League was a top priority for the club, an aim that the signing of Miedema, who was joint-top scorer in the competition with Bayern Munich two years ago, has helped them achieve.
“It’s really exciting,” the 23-year-old said.
“When I signed here, that was the main goal, getting back in the Champions League.
“Being there now, it gives you extra energy.
“I hope we can just go as far as we can and get Arsenal back in Europe. It’s just amazing to be able to do that.”
The signing of other players with experience in Europe is key too, Miedema believes.
Jill Roord, Manuela Zinsberger and Leonie Maier have all arrived from Bayern Munich this summer, adding real strength in depth to an already talented squad.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of girls who have Champions League experience as well, which will only help us,” Miedema said.
“They’re top professionals. Also, the girls come in from different positions, playing a World Cup, maybe not playing a World Cup, so they all needed a bit of time, but right now we’re in a good place and we’re just really excited.”
Helping Arsenal be one of Europe’s elite again is also part of a plan that Miedema set out to achieve when she arrived here in 2017.
The Netherlands international had a number of clubs pursuing her signature after a stellar spell with Bayern Munich, but she chose the Gunners as she saw them as a club she could grow with.
“I think my main goal is going somewhere that I can grow together with the club and help the club grow and that’s obviously the choice I made at the time when I joined Bayern Munich, but also the choice I made when I came here,” she explained.
“I could have gone to clubs that was probably set up a lot better and who wanted to win the Champions League but I’m here because I wanted to build something.
“That’s what we’ve done, that’s what we’re still doing.
“We’re obviously not there yet but you can see that we’re getting better and stronger every season.”
Whether Arsenal get to test themselves against one of Europe’s biggest teams in this year’s competition will depend on them staying in it and the luck of the draw.
For now, all focus is on their upcoming round of 32 tie against Fiorentina, with the first leg to be played in Italy on Thursday night.