Vivianne Miedema has taken the FA Women’s Super League by storm. The previous highest number of goals scored in a single season of the FAWSL was Ellen White’s 11 goals for Birmingham City last season. However, with seven FAWSL games still to go, Vivianne Miedema has already broken the record and has set a new one: she’s become the first striker to score more than 20 league goals.

Miedema came to Arsenal at the beginning of the 2017/18 season from Bayern Munich. At that time she was one of the hottest young talents in the world. With Bayern, she’d won the Bundesliga twice in three seasons (being the runners up once). She’s also a regular with the Netherlands senior team, having earned 51 caps.

Her first season with Arsenal was lukewarm, as she only played 852 minutes and scored four goals. Arsenal lost out on a Champions League spot by one point. This season, however, she’s been in stunning form. She seems to have put the previous season behind her and is back to rediscovering her old form from Bayern Munich. In this player analysis piece, we’ll look at what makes her the lethal goalscorer that she is.

Miedema: The inside forward

Arsenal, under Joe Montemurro, have tried different formations including a 4-2-3-1, a 4-1-4-1, and recently a 4-3-3. All of them feature Miedema as the central striker. Although she plays a host of different roles, her most common roles are twofold: either to play as an inside forward, or to be the focal point of crosses into the box.

Arsenal Vivianne Miedema FAWSL Player Analysis
Miedema moves wide to dribble past her opponent who she then beats to shoot and score.

As an inside forward, her main job is running onto through-balls from the left midfielder. She attacks the channels or the half-spaces (usually the left) in between the opposition centre-back and full-back. She then uses her excellent dribbling to beat her defender or at least draw the centre-back out, which can then create space for other teammates so that they can get a shot off themselves.

Her dribbling is a major asset of her game, which is why she often tends to move out on the flank and then look to take on the full-back to shoot or play a pass across the 18-yard box. She attempts a whopping total of 6.01 dribbles per 90 minutes at a success rate of 66.5%.

Another common tactic is the use of diagonal balls coupled with her diagonal runs from the inside channels to wider positions. These serve to isolate her against the opposition right-back.

Arsenal Vivianne Miedema FAWSL Player Analysis
Her tendency to shift out to the left so that she can then cut inside on her stronger right foot is evident in this heatmap.

The target-woman in the box

A Van Nistelrooy-esque header from a young woman who grew up idolising Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt was what it took for the Netherlands to break the deadlock in their semi-final vs England at the Euros. There were high expectations for the illustrious 21-year-old going into the summer, and after struggling initially, Miedema came to life in the knockout stages, eventually finishing just one goal behind Jodie Taylor.” – Dutch journalist Priya Ramesh
Arsenal Vivianne Miedema FAWSL Player Analysis
Miedema’s strong jump beats the centre-back and she puts the ball in the top corner.

At 5’9”, Miedema is one of the tallest players on her team. Furthermore, she’s known for her heading ability. Her movement in the box also makes her heading lethal. Her off-the-ball movement is such that she can make blind-side runs to lose her marker. This is also helped by her height and positioning which allows her to win headers with relative ease.

Apart from heading, Miedema is adept at creating space for herself. A common tactic of Arsenal is to play cut-backs, the success of which depends on the movement of the striker to occupy the space created. She usually gets into great scoring positions and this is proved by the fact that she produces an insane 0.79 xG per 90 minutes.

She also has good ball-retention skills and this makes it difficult for opponents to clear the danger without fouling her in their own box. She’s adept at creating shooting lanes from nothing using quick feet and shot feints.

Arsenal Vivianne Miedema FAWSL Player Analysis
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Miedema receives a cut-back in acres of space from which she promptly scores.

The finisher

We’ve already talked about how Vivianne Miedema is great at creating chances for herself and for her teammates but she’s just as good, if not better, at finishing them off herself. She takes an average of 4.18 shots per 90 minutes with 2.14 on target. Looking at advanced stats tell us an even better story.

Miedema currently averages 0.93 goals per 90: just less than a goal a match. This number in itself is incredible, but she finishes at an even better rate. She boasts an xG differential (between goals and expected goals) of 0.14 P/90. Such a high number is difficult to maintain over the course of an entire season but regular watchers of Miedema will agree that the number only prove the fact that she’s a great finisher.

She has mastered the art of runs from behind to reach a cut-back ahead of the opposing defender and finishing at the near-post. Additionally, Miedema is not overly dependent on her stronger foot. Indeed, she’s very versatile as far as finishing is considered. For instance, this season alone she’s scored nine goals using her right foot, seven using her left and one header.

Arsenal Vivianne Miedema FAWSL Player Analysis
Miedema’s shot map shows a slight bias towards her favoured left side.

Weaknesses

Although there aren’t any overall weaknesses to Miedema’s attacking output (which is amongst the highest in the league), an argument can be made about the other aspects of her game. Miedema’s usage rate and overall contribution to the team’s build-up is very low.

She plays an average of 24.03 passes per 90 and only wins back the ball 2.79 times per 90. Defensively, she only manages 1.62 interceptions every match. Most of these can be attributed to structural limitations. Montemurro plays a system which requires one striker who can always pin back the opposition back-line and investigate spaces in the box. This frees up the wingers, Beth Mead and Katie McCabe, to drop deep to combine on the wing and contribute to bringing the team up the pitch.

Arsenal Vivianne Miedema FAWSL Player Analysis
Miedema drops deep to link up play and then plays a line-breaking through-ball to a teammate making a run. These moments, however, are rare; usually, it’s Miedema on the end of similar passes.

Conclusion

Vivianne Miedema has been the striker Arsenal needed. She’s already powered them to Champions League football and has grown into the reliable presence Arsenal need in front of goal. Although a regression in finishing is due and her link-up play isn’t perfect, this might change with a difference in structure.

Nevertheless, this is nit-picking at best, and it doesn’t change the fact that she’s one of the best footballers in the world right now. After all, we are talking about the same player who once scored 41 goals in a single season for Heerenveen at the age of just 17.


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