Arsenal's complete player: The meteoric rise of Vivianne Miedema

Vivianne Miedema Goal 50 GFXTim McDonagh/Goal

It’s good that Vivianne Miedema is fantastic at football. If she wasn’t, she’d be “a big disappointment”, she laughs, finishing Goal’s sentence in an exclusive interview that celebrates her place at No.2 in this year’s Goal 50.

The all-time top scorer in the history of the Netherlands national team, and England’s Women’s Super League, Miedema grew up surrounded by the sport that would quickly consume her and, in time, that she would grow to dominate.

From her grandfather to her father to her younger brother, everyone around the Arsenal star in her younger years was football mad.

“I didn’t really have a chance to be honest, it was football or nothing,” the 24-year-old laughs.

To say she has lived up to the expectations that came with that upbringing though would be an understatement.

Not only has she gone on to establish herself as one of the best goalscorers in the world, but one of the game’s most unique players, too.

“Throughout the whole family, we have always been No.10s, No.9s, both of them a bit in a mix,” she says, describing the player she is today as “a nine and a half”.

“I started as a 10. Then at one point, the national team didn't really have a No.9, so they were like, 'Go and play up top and see how it goes'. Since the first game, I never really got away.

“I think you always want to be like your dad, or your big brother or sister. He has definitely influenced me to be the No.9 I am these days.”

Vivianne Miedema Goal 50 award 4:5Goal

Scoring a 16-minute hat-trick on just her second senior appearance for the Netherlands, Miedema’s goalscoring capabilities were influenced by the goal-hungry heroes she idolised as a child, Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But the player she is today is far from either of those two. Deployed as a No.9, but often acting like a No.10, Arsenal’s No.11 was not only the top scorer in the WSL last season, but she also led the assist charts too.

Since leaving Bayern Munich three years ago, working with Gunners head coach Joe Montemurro has given her the freedom to become one of the best players in the world.

“In Bayern especially, the way we played, I was a counterattacking No.9,” Miedema explains.

“A lot of long balls got punted forward and they were like, 'Viv, go and run with it'. It's not really my style of play.

“In the beginning, I really struggled to realise that that team needed something else from me. In the last two seasons, I fully accepted it and I did it the way they wanted to do it.

“But then, after three years, I realised I had to move on for myself, to enjoy football and to be happy. Arsenal has been the right choice.

“The way we play, it's fitting in with the way I want to play. [Montemurro’s style] just gives us freedom.

Vivianne Miedema Joe Montemurro Arsenal Women 2020 PS gfx 1:1Getty/Goal

“Not just me, I think a lot of players. We've got a lot of intelligent, technical players that need to have that bit of freedom and need to be able to do what they think at that moment is best.

“It just makes me enjoy the game and it makes me able to have a lot of touches and to do what I want to do.”

Not only do Montemurro and Miedema’s ideas of football match, helping Arsenal to claim their first league title for seven years in 2019, but their personalities, too.

“He's probably bored of me,” the forward laughs, with her non-stop football brain perhaps even too much for one of the most analytical and dedicated coaches in the game.

“We talk a lot about the way we play, the way other teams play. It's not that I'm going in and being like, 'this is what we need to do'. Because he'll just be like, 'well, there's the door, see you later'. But I think it's really good to have those discussions.

“I think it's really good to brainstorm with players, for him to ask me how I felt that game, if we as a group feel like it's working, because I think that's the most important thing in football: to communicate and to make sure you're on the right way.

“I watch a lot of football. If it's the Italian league, if it's the South Korean league, I literally don't care. I just watch it anyway.

“It's nice to have someone that enjoys football a lot too and especially our assistant coach, Aaron [D'Antino], he loves football too and we speak about it a lot.

“I love speaking about football with him because we believe football needs to be played the same way.”

That chemistry has played a huge part in getting the best out of Miedema.

In Arsenal’s famous colours, the 24-year-old has 82 goals from as many games, as well as a WSL title and Continental Cup trophy. The challenge now is to keep that up while opponents do their best to stop her.

“I think it's a good thing because it means that I need to find ways to keep improving myself, which I like. That, in the end, is why you want to play football,” she says.

“A lot of the teams are man-marking me or whatever they're trying to do, so I always need to find a different way around it in every single game. It's a good opportunity for me to develop myself so I like it.”

That focus is typical of Miedema’s approach to football. No matter what she achieves, she is also striving for more and never standing still. It’s down in part to her incredible drive, and also her humble personality.

Despite her success, this is a player who doesn’t enjoy being the centre of attention.

It’s something that is seen almost every week in her iconic goalscoring celebration - that being that she simply doesn’t celebrate. A simple huddle with her team-mates and maybe a quick smile, if it’s a special occasion, typify her character.

“It's just about respecting your opponent and it is my job to score goals, but it's also just trying to focus on the game and just to keep going,” she explains.

“I'm from a small town in Holland and there's no space really for crazy things.”

Vivianne Miedema Netherlands Women 1:1 PS gfx 2020Getty/Goal

Miedema’s modesty does have one drawback, though, in that she probably doesn’t give herself the credit she deserves.

To be the all-time top scorer for her country and the most prolific player in the history of the WSL, as well as a European champion and World Cup finalist with the Netherlands, at just 24 years old is mind-blowing.

“I think it's the first time ever in lockdown that you actually had time to [reflect],” she says.

“I was reflecting on what we all achieved with the Netherlands, with Arsenal, individually, over the last couple years. Sometimes, me, and a lot of other players, should be a bit more appreciative of what we've achieved and we should be proud of it.

“I'm always that type of person and player that doesn't like to be standing in the spotlight, that doesn't like to be the centre of attention. But sometimes I do think I should just tell myself that I am doing good and I just need to keep going.

“I've played different systems at every single club I've played for. I've also played in different leagues. I play at international level, and it has definitely made me a better player.

“I feel like I've become a more complete player than I've ever probably been before.”

With time on her side, there’s no telling how much better Miedema could get. One thing is for sure, though: she’s certainly not been a disappointment.