Press conference

Miedema: "Player safety is most important"

Vivianne Miedema

Vivianne Miedema has reflected on her period of personal leave and how much it helped her refocus in the wake of a relentless playing schedule. 

Our Dutch forward spoke to the media ahead of the Juventus tie, where she fielded questions on the Italian champions, her own time away from the pitch, and how we can best protect players as the women's game grows:

on what to expect from Juventus this time...

"We went into that game thinking that Juve was going to be a tough game considering the results they've had against Lyon. Last year, they kicked Chelsea out of the competition as well - they are a good team. We kind of knew what to expect from them, because obviously, we've played under Joe ourselves, too.

"But we know now that we need to finish off our chances because I think we should have won the game there last week. We made it difficult for ourselves coming from one-nil behind. We did turn around and at least got the equaliser but, yeah, we need to just be better at finishing off early on."

on our team becoming more clinical in front of goal...

"You always say to a number nine when they haven't scored for a while: if you create, then you are doing something right and you're on the way. But if you look at the number of games we've played so far this season, and especially in the beginning, we have been scoring a lot. I think the recent pressure on the girls has been quite intense because we've just not had a big squad. I am happy that we actually just won the game at the weekend and that we did get a point against Juve. I think we just need to sharpen up and improve those things in the last four games before Christmas."

on the difference it makes to have Leah and Rafa back in the squad...

"It's obviously massive. I think they both have qualities that we've been missing over the last couple of games. We've got them back now but we want to keep them fit as well. So it's about managing them and getting them through till the winter break. But yeah, it will give us a massive boost because it gives us a lot more freedom in shifting and moving players around the rest of the pitch."

"Quality-wise, you obviously want your best players on the pitch. They've got enough quality to be on the pitch with us. We've missed them. We've missed their qualities on the pitch. But I think as a team, and especially when you have that many injuries, you stick together. You try and help each other out. The moment that players start coming back from injury, it just lifts the whole atmosphere in the team. For the girls who are still injured right now and are in the gym a lot, we try and make them feel part of the team and you try to support them. But yeah, just the positive vibe you get from players coming back is immense if you've only got 13/14 fit players."

on the disproportionate number of injuries in our squad this season...

"I mean, it's not just us. I think if you look at women's football and men's football in general right now, the load on us players is too high. It's something that players are now starting to speak about. We've had Rafa and Leah out for part of the first half of the season because they've obviously played a Euros, they've played a Copa America - they've not had the time off. We play three games a week right now, and if you look at facilities and circumstances, we're not at the same level that the men's game is. I think we just need to start protecting the players because in the end, people will come to the Emirates to see Leah play. People come to the Emirates to see Kim Little and Beth Mead play. And yeah, I think we need to start realising that players' safety and protection is probably the first and most important thing."

on linking up with Katie McCabe on the right wing...

"The way I want to play my game is that I like adjusting to the players around me. Something that I've picked up in the game quite easily and quite quickly is that if Katie actually does receive the ball and wants to come inside, I need to position myself in the opposite pocket. As a team, we've been working on shifting the ball a lot more recently. I think you could also see that in a weekend against Everton. We've been a bit more patient and you could see the switch of play where our goal came from as well. It's something that we still need to improve but it's definitely been better over the last two or three games. We've got different players in different positions right now and it's just about adjusting."

on her leave of personal absence...

"I obviously had COVID during the Euros, which I've not really fully recovered from. I was actually in my bed for 10 days, I had a high fever, and I'd been really sick from it so I needed some time to recover. At the beginning of the season, you kind of get through it because it's like autopilot. Then I missed the second international break period through illness again.

I spoke with Jonas about getting a rest against Lyon and managing my minutes because I just didn't feel mentally and physically ready to actually play. I think you could see that in a way I was playing. I didn't enjoy my football at that moment and I think the moment you start not enjoying it and wake up in the morning not wanting to go in, that's the moment that you need to make a switch. After speaking about it with Jonas and my national team coach, I was really happy that they both granted me the time off, and I could actually get away for two weeks."

on how important it is that players feel able to ask for time off...

"It's obviously really important that the player feels the support from the clubs and coaches to do it. But at the same time, as a player, I was in quite a fortunate position. First of all, being at Arsenal. Second of all, obviously, my name and my experience in the game kind of helped me. A lot of younger players, and even some of the more experienced players, probably won't ask for themselves. I think coaches from national teams and from club football need to be a bit more aware of that as well and sometimes instigate it themselves.

I hope that my taking the time off will have done good for a couple of players who now feel confident enough to actually ask for a break. That they don't feel ashamed for needing it. Because as I've said, so many times before, it's been so nonstop over the last couple of years and at one point, you just need to switch off. For some people, that might mean two weeks. For other people, that might mean that it's longer. But I just hope that they feel confident enough to ask for that time off."

on whether she's felt better since she's come back...

"A lot of people probably thought that my time off would just mean me going on holiday and not training for myself and actually just getting away from football. But I've actually used the time in a way of going to the other side of the world, but still training every day. I didn't have a preseason after I had COVID this summer so I used that period of time to actually get myself fit. That's the biggest difference that I feel on the pitch right now. I feel physically a lot fitter. I think you can see that in the games. And I think by being physically fit, the games became easy again for me. I hope that I can at least hold that in the next four games til Christmas."

on player well-being in the wake of a very busy footballing schedule...

"In the end, as a player, you want to be playing the big tournaments. You want to play Euros, you want to play a World Cup. I think the biggest difference when it comes to international football is that we've got more international windows within a season than the men have. We also played an Olympics before with a first team instead of under-23s.

I think that's definitely something that FIFA, FIFPro and UEFA need to start looking at. If we want to make the calendar similar, then also don't let us have six FIFA windows where the men only have four or five per year. I think that also comes back to women's football not having the same amount of numbers within a squad. If you look at Man City's men's team, they've probably got 22 or 23 full-time, amazing first-team players. This year, like I think we've got 18 or 19 players that are capable of being in the squad for us. It's something that they need to start listening to, instead of them making a decision based on money or popularity or marketing. I think we need to try and come to a solution with players and the big associations together."

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