| Evening Standard


Kana Vivianne Miedema was substituted in the closing minutes of last season against West Ham to a standing ovation. Many of the applauders were afraid to say goodbye.

Few knew of his decision earlier that week, which would not be revealed for another 12 days: after talks with most of Europe’s leading clubs, the Arsenal superstar stayed put.

“It still felt a little weird,” he says Standard sport. “Obviously, at that moment I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice.

“Even my team-mates expected me to leave – and I was very close to leaving. When I told them one morning I was staying, they said, ‘No, you’re taking a bum. Just shut up and leave.”

Needless to say, they will be more than happy that Miedema paid little heed to their advice, especially heading into a spectacular event like Saturday’s north London derby against Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium, which has so far sold over 51,000 tickets.

According to Miedema, days like this are part of the reason why he stayed there.

Vivianne Miedema decided to stay at Arsenal despite negotiations with other leading clubs

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images

“I’ve always said the English league is the best, so that helped my decision,” he says. “At the end of the day, you play for big games and big moments, so when 50,000 people are at a game against Spurs, that’s one of them.”

Arsenal’s women’s team played at the Emirates several times last season, including in the Champions League group stage against Barcelona, ​​giant Miedema may have joined, but never in front of a crowd of this magnitude. Miedema said the atmosphere at small Borehamwood, where the Gunners play most of their home games, was often better, and he has set his sights on seeing at least 20,000 fans at each of what he hopes will be six games at the Emirates this season.

“You want to play big stadiums, but you only want to play there when it’s really packed or there’s a lot of people,” he says. “When you play in a stadium with 4,000 or 5,000 people it feels really empty. I think Borehamwood is too small to be honest, but when you play smaller stadiums and it’s sold out, it feels full of energy.

Saturday promises to deliver just that, not least because Arsenal as a club is currently under an infectious current of optimism. Miedema says Mikel Arteta’s rise in performances for the men’s side has resulted in “a big boost for the whole club – not just for them, but for us” and his own commitment to stay in north London is another facet of a wider sense of collective progress. .

“At Arsenal you have to be the best or want to be the best,” he says. “I still don’t think we’re there and I’ll be the first to say that to the club, but I think we’re going in the right direction and I haven’t always felt that in the last couple of years.

“Over the last 12 months I’ve definitely felt that the people at the top really support women’s football and want to do something.”

For Miedema, when the club’s contract expired, the caliber was such that “there was no wrong decision”, but if coming to the idea of ​​signing a new contract was a gradual process, there was a moment during the summer. when Miedema knew for sure that he had done the right thing.

“If you spend 10 days in your room with Covid at the Euros and still don’t hate England, you’ll understand after that…” he laughs, although his battle with the virus was no joke.

After feeling unwell in Holland’s opener against Sweden, the 26-year-old tested positive and stayed in bed, albeit in a strange way that actually offered some consolation for missing the remaining two group games.

When I told my Arsenal team-mates I was staying, they said: “No, you’re taking a f***. Just shut up and leave.

“The first couple of days I was too sick to do anything, I felt really bad. When you’ve had Covid and you don’t have any symptoms it’s probably more frustrating but I couldn’t actually leave my bed.

The forward only returned in time for the quarter-final loss to France, which he played out of form for nearly two weeks without training. The euro money that Miedema hoped to do ended before it had really begun.

“You go into this tournament and, especially at my age, you feel like it’s meant to be your tournament,” he says. “Not to be arrogant, but I know I’ve got the qualities to make it my tournament. It was really frustrating, just staying in my hotel room and watching the games on TV.

After leaving the Netherlands, Miedema somewhat reluctantly became an England fan, supporting partner Beth Mead, Arsenal team-mate Leah Williamson and coach Sarina Wiegman, under whom he had enjoyed his Euro triumph on home soil five years earlier.

“I wasn’t that excited about wearing the England top!” he says. “After a couple of beers after the final I was fine.

“I myself have played on euros, exactly the same euros [in the Netherlands] in 2017. At one point you just know, you just feel, it’s going to be England and the girls must have felt that in their camp.

England’s triumph has raised the profile of the likes of Williamson and Mead, and Miedema is no longer the only superstar in town.

After England’s European success, Miedema is no longer the only superstar in Arsenal’s ranks

/ FA via Getty Images

“You used to go to London and I got recognized but the girls walked with me and they didn’t, which is weird because you’re in England,” she says. “We’ll see how the girls handle it in a few months!”

Europe’s biggest clubs are already showing more interest in English talent. Keira Walsh’s move from Manchester City to Barcelona in a world record deal reportedly worth £350,000 is making headlines.

“I’m the last one to scream that it’s the same game as the men’s game because I think the money in the men’s game is absolutely ridiculous and I don’t think we should ever want to get there,” says Miedema. “But I think we have to improve and this is one move that shows that.”

Miedema, who graduated from the Open University this week with a master’s degree in business and marketing, believes the first million-pound female player is not that far off, although she is quick to dismiss the obvious question: “It’s not me – I’m too old for that!

Just months ago, Arsenal were on the verge of losing him. How glad they are that he stayed.

Tickets are on sale for Saturday’s North London derby. More information click here.