Vivianne Miedema was the personification of Arsenal’s greatest qualities, now they’re ready to move on without her

The Arsenal striker will move on at the end of the season when her contract expires. (Rhianna Chadwick/PA Wire)

So long, Vivianne Miedema. Arsenal are losing a lot more than just a striker with her departure, they will have to cope without a club legend, they won’t be able to call upon their trusty goal threat any more.

Yet it is a sign of how times are changing for Arsenal that this doesn’t feel like the blow it once would have been. Without Miedema they will be different, but they have already had to confront life without the Dutchwoman and the trial run has been promising.

That will enthuse boss Jonas Eidevall. Arsenal without Miedema would have forced him to grapple with a rebuild in the past, it would have set back all the hard work which has been done to get them back to their fighting best. Now, the damage is mostly consigned to the emotional front.

The heirs to Miedema’s throne are ample – and they’ve all been successful. Alessia Russo was a star signing last summer, now recruiting her is looking like an even more shrewd piece of business. Frida Maanum has flourished, Stina Blackstenius has had the required touch in the big moments. This Arsenal team are far from one-dimensional.

Eidevall has had to oversee a complete shift since taking over from Joe Montemurro in 2021. It’s been far from perfect, most supporters will be left with the lingering feeling that they aren’t quite at the level of competing with the best and have had an underwhelming trophy haul, but matters on the pitch have certainly been revamped.

Striker Alessia Russo is a fitting replacement for the departing Miedema. (Getty Images)

Striker Alessia Russo is a fitting replacement for the departing Miedema. (Getty Images)

Arsenal’s season comes to a close on Saturday when they host Brighton on the final day of the Women’s Super League. Should Miedema be fit, she’ll be able to close her seven-year stint with a final game in front of her home supporters at Meadow Park.

It is a certainty that the match will be emotionally-charged if Miedema plays, regardless of how much is actually on the line. The title is out of reach for Arsenal, Champions League football has already been secured, but what was shaping up to be a dead rubber is now an important spectacle for home supporters.

Things haven’t gone Arsenal’s way this year; Chelsea have taken the title race with Manchester City down to the final day and the Gunners will only be spectators to any late excitement.

But although it hasn’t been perfect, this year has gone better than the last, when they ended up 11 points off the top despite managing a third-place finish. They have once again won the Continental Cup and progress has been present, particularly in how they’ve coped without injured players – especially Miedema.

Should the forward play against Brighton on Saturday it will be her last appearance for the Gunners. (Adam Davy/PA Wire)

Should the forward play against Brighton on Saturday it will be her last appearance for the Gunners. (Adam Davy/PA Wire)

It is in the breadth of the Gunners’ front line, not the excellence of any single individual, where they have improved most. That, specifically, is what will cushion the blow of losing Miedema.

They have already dispatched any concerns about Miedema’s potential irreplaceability, performing well in attack during her stop-start return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury which kept her out from December 2022 to October 2023.

Russo, Blackstenius and Maanum are of course the most similar replacements, but the truth is that under Eidevall they’ve lost the need for a lone striker. If that trio are scoring, goals are coming from Caitlin Foord and Beth Mead on the wings, and midfielders are regularly popping up, then where’s the problem?

Arsenal’s sporting director Edu Gaspar credited the “wonderful memories” she has helped to create during her time in north London. She thrived in Arsenal’s past, but might not be entirely necessary for creating memories for the future.

That a name who was for so long synonymous with all of Arsenal’s best qualities has become almost surplus to requirements feels tough, but it’s the truth. She remains a fantastic footballer, but if Arsenal want to move trophies from their imagination to the cabinets of the Emirates they must focus on other matters.

The total rebuild has exceeded up top, it is in other areas of the pitch where work still needs to be done. At times it seems like they are left with a binary choice: score goals, or sit back and don’t concede. A winning team has to be able to do both at the same time.

Arsenal moving on from Miedema is a sign that they want to challenge for more trophies and build on their Continental Cup win. (Getty Images)

Arsenal moving on from Miedema is a sign that they want to challenge for more trophies and build on their Continental Cup win. (Getty Images)

Taking a leaf out of Chelsea and Manchester City’s book shows why you can’t just rely on being able to outscore others in the WSL anymore. Both have strong back lines, both have shipped fewer goals than Arsenal. Both have also outscored the Gunners. A glance at the table reveals the difference.

For Miedema’s departure to have a big impact she would need to be making a big difference at the moment. The sad fact is that she hasn’t been the same player since her return from injury and in a division often decided by the finest of margins – a handful of games against the ‘bigger’ sides – a manager must go with what is working, not have their judgement clouded by fond memories of the past.

Years of successive injury crises showed Arsenal the dangers of having single points of failure. That’s why they have such a multi-dimensional attacking line and it’s the same for other clubs too. If clubs are investing and champion diversification to mitigate risk, then some players will end up becoming collateral damage.

Miedema, therefore, fits into that category. Should she return to the quality which has seen her score 125 goals and provide 50 assists in her 172 appearances, then she might be able to reach the top level again, but it’s unlikely Arsenal will regret letting her contract expire.

She will forever hold a fond spot in Arsenal supporters’ memories. Now Miedema, who has been heavily linked with a move to title rivals City, leaves with a positive history on her side and the chance to remake herself at a club where she will be the right match for their approach and can hopefully flourish again.


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