Vivianne Miedema is a special player, the kind that comes along once in a blue moon. If Arsenal want to maintain any of their success, they must do everything in their power to make sure she stays.
Miedema, whose current contract with the club is up this summer, has been hailed as the striker of a generation. And at 25, her best years likely lie ahead.
After starting off with Heerenveen in her native Netherlands and then spending three seasons at Bayern Munich, Miedema has continued her rise at Arsenal, firmly establishing herself as one of the best players in the world.
She’s the FA Women’s Super League top scorer, with 66 goals and counting.
Applauded for her ability to play as a classic No.9, she is also capable of dropping deep and creating chances for her team.
With 28 league assists since her Arsenal debut, it is clear that she’s just as comfortable playmaking as she is banging in goals.
Her goal involvements this season alone have come at incredibly crucial moments, including a 92nd-minute equaliser against north London rivals, Tottenham.
When it matters! @VivianneMiedema at the death 🤯
— Barclays Women's Super League (@BarclaysWSL) November 13, 2021
And with a goal and an assist in games against title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, it is clear that she is a key factor that is keeping Arsenal, who currently sit top, in the title race.
Miedema is the definition of a complete modern forward, and when she first joined Arsenal, it seemed like a perfect fit.
Arsenal are far and away the most successful English club when it comes to women’s football. Established as a dominant force early on, the club has won 15 league titles, 14 FA Cups, five League Cups, and five Community Shields.
They are also the only English club with a Champions League to their name, having conquered Europe in 2006-07. That season they became the first in the history of women’s football to achieve the continental sextuple.
The Gunners dominated at a time where women’s football in the country was still finding its footing. However, as more teams started to see the benefit of investing in women’s football, Arsenal began to slowly fall away.
Under immense pressure to replicate their previous success, Arsenal struggled throughout the early and mid-2010s, consistently finishing third in the league and failing to make any mark in the cup competitions.
Arsenal watched as Chelsea and Manchester City got financially stronger. But they also saw Liverpool, a club that was also once considered an elite team, slowly fall down the table and eventually get relegated.
It was a path that the London club was adamant they would not follow.
Thus, the rebuild began.
Arsenal’s recruitment prioritized young players, who could be bought cheap and moulded into superstars. These players included Danielle van de Donk, Kim Little, Katie McCabe and Beth Mead, but Miedema was the jewel in the crown.
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Miedema’s journey to becoming one of the world’s best started when she signed for Heerenveen aged 14. She progressed quickly and in her third season reached stratospheric levels, scoring 39 goals in 26 league games, 15 more than the second-top goal scorer.
By 2014, every club in Europe was itching to sign Miedema, but it was Bayern Munich that won the striker’s signature.
She went on to win two Bundesliga titles in her three-year stint in Germany before heading to north London.
The slow method of integrating young players, including Miedema, worked to some degree. Arsenal won the FA WSL again in 2018-19, their first title in seven years, with Miedema heading the charge.
Former England and Arsenal striker Kelly Smith said: “She is certainly proving to be one of the best strikers in the world. And at the rate at which she is going, she will become one of, if not the best striker in the game in terms of her goal tallies and the different types of goals that she scores.”
But Miedema is coming up on five seasons at Arsenal now, and the Dutch star only has two trophies to show for all those years: that 2019 league title and the 2018 League Cup.
Arsenal not being as competitive as they used to be has stunted Miedema’s growth as a player.
Despite being widely known as one of the best in the world, she often does not get the recognition she deserves simply due to the club’s lack of trophies, and from her words, it is clear that it grates with her.
After not being nominated for the FIFPRO World XI and FIFA Best awards in any category she said: “I don’t really care about individual awards to be honest, but I think it’s a joke.”
And why wouldn’t it grate? We’re looking at a generational striker who has spent some of her prime years not competing in the Champions League, the most prestigious competition club football has to offer.
Of course, no one is entitled to silverware, and there have been times, whether it be cup finals or essential league games, where Miedema could have performed better.
The FA Cup final, played this past December, was a night to forget for her. Arsenal were lucky to only concede three to reigning WSL champions Chelsea, and while Sam Kerr scored a brace to seal the deal, Miedema couldn’t even muster a shot on target.
— Vitality Women's FA Cup (@VitalityWFACup) December 5, 2021
But it has become increasingly clear over the years that Miedema has proven her worth to the club and that Arsenal needs her more than she needs them.
Miedema has been blunt on her assessment of Arsenal at the minute saying: “Arsenal has always been the club in England, I think the club has kind of let that slip over the last decade. I’m happy to say that they definitely are moving into the right direction again.”
Fans will hope that the club continues to move upwards. Due to her stature, naturally, the striker is constantly a topic of transfer news, and it is no secret that her contract is up in the summer of 2022.
Similarly to when Miedema moved to Bayern, all the top European clubs will be doing everything in their power to get her to sign for them.
Her agent, Leoni Blokhuis, has not been shy in stating that other clubs are interested, and given her talent, Miedema will essentially have the pick of the bunch.
It will be incredibly easy for her to find a club that guarantees her trophies every season. And at the end of the day, who would blame her for moving on?
On the other hand, Arsenal simply cannot justify letting her go.
As their rivals have got stronger, they’ve failed to add proper depth to support a consistent push for league and Champions League titles.
It’s even worse when you realise that the window of opportunity to make some money from her leaving is gone.
If Miedema had left a year ago, then at least there would be the small silver lining in that they could use the funds from her transfer to bolster their squad.
Women’s football is evolving, and having a rich history will not cut it anymore. The club cannot afford to lose players that are keeping them competitive.
Should Miedema leave this summer, questions must be asked about Arsenal – a club that was once seen as the pinnacle of women’s football in England – and their worrying lack of ambition.