Vivianne Miedema believes she is only going to get better after passing 100 goals for Arsenal. As she gears up to face a depleted Manchester City defence on Sunday, Miedema said she has been working even harder on her game since being struck by a realisation during lockdown.
The striker has 102 goals in 110 games for Arsenal – without having scored a single penalty – but conceded that to a certain extent she has been coasting. “So far I’ve been able to do a lot just with my talent,” she said.
“In lockdown I started realising that if I put in a bit more work, I can probably be a hell of a lot better than I used to be. So it was a nice reality check. Coming back after that I felt a lot fitter and felt really strong going into a lot of games. So I hope I can keep that up now.”
Miedema spent lockdown in Scotland, the homeland of her partner, Lisa Evans, who is on loan at West Ham from Arsenal. The Dutchwoman was asked why it took the lockdown for her to explore her abilities and potential. “It was the first time I had had a break in five or six seasons,” she said.
“The moment you have a break, you start really realising what you’ve done right, what you’ve done wrong.
“When lockdown hit I was a bit tired of football – it had been really hard. We had a lot of injuries at the club, we could never really train up to a high level because we were always scared that if we lost more girls, we didn’t have players for the weekend.”
Teenage record signing Hanna Bennison produced a stunning finish as Everton claimed their first WSL win of the season to leave Birmingham still waiting.
The 18-year-old Sweden international, who was sent on at half-time at Walton Hall Park, struck with 17 minutes remaining in a tight encounter to put Everton ahead after Jade Pennock had cancelled out Leonie Maier's first strike for the Merseyside club. Rikke Sevecke sealed the win at the death.
Having felt the effects of a busy schedule, the idea of a biennial World Cup does not appeal. “I can hardly keep up right now. I’m not sure, I might have to retire to be honest,” she said.
“From a North American point of view I get it, because they want to measure themselves with the rest of the world more often. But for us Europeans, with the Euros being there, with the Olympics in between, with the leagues that we have, it’s not possible. It’s not what you want as a player. It’s not good for football.”
The in-form Miedema will certainly pose a challenge for a City defence that will have a makeshift look about it. Injuries to the captain, Steph Houghton, and Alex Greenwood during the international break added to a lengthy list of absentees that includes the goalkeepers Ellie Roebuck and Karen Bardsley, the world player of the year, Lucy Bronze, the midfielder Keira Walsh and the defender Esme Morgan.
The 18-year-old Ruby Mace, who joined the WSL runners-up from Arsenal in the summer, could play against her former side earlier than expected.
City twice got the better of Arsenal in the league last season, winning both games 2-1, but this is a different Arsenal and the new manager, Jonas Eidevall, wants Miedema to get on the ball more.
“He’s got a wee bit of a different playing style,” she said. “It does come with a lot of freedom for me, so I can’t really complain.
“We love pressing forward, we love taking control of the game and, in the past couple years, that basically meant having the ball. We weren’t that focused on what we did without the ball. Jonas tries to focus on both things.
“Looking back at the last couple of games [a 3-2 defeat of Chelsea and 4-0 win over Reading] you do see that we are a bit more direct. I know that I need to be in the box a bit more. For a No 9, that’s what you want, you want to get the ball in the box. Our mindset going into the big games has definitely changed.
“I feel like we can trust ourselves, we can be confident moving forward, going up, and that comes back to me as well.”