Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema: ‘A year ago I didn’t even know what GOAT meant’

Vivianne Miedema holding a football ball: Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Vivianne Miedema

Vivianne Miedema lets out a big laugh when asked if Lisa Evans, her partner and teammate, will let her bring home any more trophies. “Well, not all of them,” the Barclays WSL player of the month for October, says, grinning widely. “She tells me I can only take home the nice ones now so we’ve got a trophy cabinet at the training ground for me as well.”

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Luckily, in the home of English women’s football’s most decorated club, Arsenal, Miedema’s trophy cabinet is unlikely to outweigh her club’s, but, at just 24, the records continue to be broken and the awards keep coming.

Related: Ella Toone sinks Arsenal and sends Manchester United top of WSL

On 18 October the Dutch striker scored a hat-trick in the Gunners’ 6-1 defeat of Tottenham to take her to 52 Women’s Super League goals, overtaking the record 49 scored by England’s Nikita Parris. Perhaps more impressively, she did so in fewer than half the number of games, 50 to Parris’s 110.

At the 2019 World Cup, she became the Netherlands’ all-time scorer after two goals against Cameroon, taking her to 60 international goals and overtaking Manon Melis’s tally. Now, she has 70 in 91 games for her country, also dwarfing the 50 in 102 games set by her hero, Robin van Persie, for the men’s team.

The records, though, are “just another box ticked” for a No 9 that does not revel in the spotlight that leading the line brings. “Obviously for me, as a nine, I know it comes with scoring goals and I know that is my first job,” she says. “We joked about it a couple of times today, the easiest thing would be to stop scoring goals and then you wouldn’t be in the picture any more, but it’s something you just get used to.

a hand holding a football ball: Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal smiles after scoring a hat-trick against Spurs, which took her to a record of 52 WSL goals.
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal smiles after scoring a hat-trick against Spurs, which took her to a record of 52 WSL goals

“Obviously I really appreciate everything everyone is saying about me, the text messages, the support I got for breaking the record. It feels really good, it feels like I’m achieving what I’ve wanted to achieve and that motivates me to be a better player than I am right now.”

The microscope zooms in closer with every new achievement and there are gifs of Miedema, memes, goat emojis everywhere and a fascination with a player that just oozes cool. “It was weird at the beginning,” she says. “To be fair until a year ago I didn’t even know what a GOAT [greatest of all time] meant, I was like: ‘It’s not really nice for people to call me a goat. It’s not the best animal to be.’

“And then obviously Lisa had to explain what it actually meant. But yeah, as I said, although I’m not too bothered by individual prizes or records, you feel appreciated and every single person or football player would benefit from that.”

Apart from the praise from players and fans, Miedema has a super-fan in Arsenal legend Ian Wright. When the Gunners launched their new kit Wright had “Miedema” emblazoned across his back. On 23 October he captioned a video of his granddaughter practising her step-overs “project @VivianneMiedema”.

Miedema smiles at the reminder. “It says a lot about the women’s game. It’s really good that all players, all club legends, not just at Arsenal, get involved in the game and start following the game. It’s amazing to be a role model in the women’s game right now, I hope his wee granddaughter is going to reach this level and wear the Arsenal colours,” she says in her Scottish/Dutch twang.

The goals continue to come, and after she scored all four goals in the Continental Cup victory against London City Lionesses last week, Wright tweeted: “We are lucky to have her.”

He is right. The way in which the phenomenally efficient forward stalks the pitch, almost nonchalantly, is almost addictive to watch, and the secret is a football obsession. “I’ve just been a football monster from such a young age,” she explains. “I’ve watched so much football, I’ve played so much football.

a group of men playing a game of football: Vivianne Miedema dives for a header while playing for the Netherlands against Cameroon the 2019 World Cup in France. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock
Provided by The Guardian Vivianne Miedema dives for a header while playing for the Netherlands against Cameroon the 2019 World Cup in France. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock

“The more you encounter the same situations, the more rest and confidence you’ve got in those situations and, especially this season, I feel like I’ve probably got a better standard of fitness than I’ve ever had and feel like every time I’m on the pitch in those positions I can do what I want to do. Obviously I’m quite relaxed, if it doesn’t go in I know the next chance will and I think that really helps me to be relaxed and calm in front of the goal.”

How has she achieved that new level of fitness? “They make me train too much,” she jokes. “Nah, it’s definitely partly from lockdown. When you don’t have a lot of time off between seasons your body doesn’t fully recover. Having six months of lockdown we all finally had the chance to work on what we needed to work on. I’ve never enjoyed running, I’ve never enjoyed the gym, even before, but I have enjoyed lockdown.

“It was easy for us because it was Lisa and me together and we could play a bit of football, we could run, we went on hikes, we went on walks, it was a bit of a mix but it opened my eyes.”

Lockdown, then, was a welcome rest. “Oh I loved it,” she says. “For the whole team it came at the right time, obviously a pandemic and lockdown never come at a right time, but for us, the state we were in, it was actually really nice to have the opportunity to switch off. I was in Scotland, in Holland, seeing families from both sides and enjoying different things, it’s my 10th season at the highest level and I’ve not really had any time for myself or for family and to have that for once felt really nice. I think it made me more motivated to go back to football and enjoy it again.”

Miedema is used to being the focal point, but Arsenal is not a one-player team. Compatriot Jill Roord and Australia’s Caitlin Foord sit behind the leading WSL goalscorer for this season and that potency “makes it much harder for other teams to defend against us,” says Miedema.

“You can double- or triple-man-mark me but knowing you’ve got two or three players on the pitch that can score goals is really great to have and gives us so much more freedom.”

Roord’s two hat-tricks in two games helped her to September’s player of the month award before injury stifled her fine start. “We need to up each others’ game and that’s the way we do it,” Miedema says. “I love playing with her, we really understand each other, we’ve played together for the last 10 years and you build up that connection. I’m really buzzing for her to be back and it will only help us moving forward.” She pauses, grins, and then adds: “But yeah, I’ll outscore her this year, don’t worry.”

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