How Frida Maanum and Vivianne Miedema conundrum underpins Arsenal Women's trophy charge – Sky Sports

  • October 28, 2022

As Frida Maanum and Vivianne Miedema battle it out for Arsenal’s No 10 role, we explore how the Gunners’ strength in depth can lead them to silverware this season; Watch Arsenal Women vs West Ham Women on Sunday from 6.30pm live on Sky Sports Football; kick-off 6.45pm
Senior football journalist
Friday 28 October 2022 13:54, UK
Both Frida Maanum and Vivianne Miedema have adapted to the No 10 role, marking positional changes from the last few years. The conundrum of who to play and where – which also stretches past the two forwards – underpins Arsenal Women’s trophy charge this season.
The issue was bought to the fore when the Arsenal teamsheet came out against Lyon in the Champions League last week. Maanum started in the No 10 role that had, up until that point in the season, been occupied largely by Miedema.
For years now, Miedema has been Arsenal’s focal point and star striker – somewhat reluctantly. The Netherlands international is not one for the spotlight and has said consistently that she prefers assisting goals rather than scoring them.
Her position has shifted this season, giving her more scope for this. She has dropped back into more of an attacking midfield role after years of being one of the most devastating No 9s in the Women’s Super League.
It has not been an immediate or even completely permanent switch, but one that has been tried and tested since Jonas Eidevall came in. For example, in the 2020/21 season, she scored 18 goals compared to 14 last season.
But she did register eight assists – three more than the previous campaign – and created far more chances (41, compared to 29 in the 2021/22 season). Her defensive numbers were up in almost all categories too, being more involved in Arsenal’s midfield play rather than waiting up front for the ball to come to her.

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Her heatmaps from the 2021/22 campaign compared to the start of this season show a shift further back but also a wider spread across the middle of the pitch. There is also less activity inside the box itself.
But while Miedema has been shifted slightly further back, Maanum has actually been brought forward. Since joining the club last summer, the Norwegian has impressed, but mostly as a central or defensive midfielder.
Comparing her heatmaps, there is a marked difference. In her games this season, Maanum has operated across the entirety of that attacking midfield position with far less action in the defensive half. She also largely operated on the left last term and has been given much more freedom now.

There are many good qualities that earmark Maanum as an attacker – her play is direct and aggressive. She can drive into the space with or without the ball, pulling an opposition defence apart. Against Lyon, she was tasked with defending two players at once and did so with huge efficiency, needing to run and be alert for the entire game – no mean feat.
She was Arsenal’s standout player in the sensational 5-1 win against the Champions League holders, and that’s before we even get to the attacking stats – she scored the Gunners’ second and picked up an assist for Beth Mead’s fifth.
Maanum’s determination did not let up against Liverpool either, again scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win. Both of her goals were scored in the 22nd minute too – a spooky coincidence heading into Halloween weekend.
While some may have questioned leaving out Miedema for such a huge away game against Lyon – described as Arsenal’s ‘biggest challenge so far’ by Caitlin Foord ahead of the tie – it has proven to be an inspired switch.
Explaining a bit more about why he chose Maanum over Miedema in France, Eidevall told after the win: “Frida is one of our players with the strongest running ability as well.
“I think she carried out that role that required an extreme amount of running because you basically have to defend two players the whole time.
“I think she was brilliant – both off the ball and on. It was an excellent performance from her and she should be really proud and happy.”
Of course, there is another element to this story – Stina Blackstenius has taken up that No 9 role and Miedema started to drop back when the Sweden international joined the club in January.
The two have linked up well since playing together, with Blackstenius’ movement, runs and ability to drag defenders out of position already proving fruitful. She plays as a more traditional striker, rather than in between two positions as Miedema has been known to do.
And there’s no escaping the fact that it was quite extraordinary for a player of Miedema’s calibre to be left out of successive starting XIs, particularly in a big Champions League fixture. However, she returned to the squad against Zurich on Thursday evening.
Miedema was never going to be absent for long. Rotation is key for any team competing on multiple fronts and her sheer class means she will always be important for Arsenal.
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Let’s not forget – only a few weeks ago, she was among the nominees for the Ballon d’Or and many pointed to her new contract in the summer as the best business Arsenal could do, with Miedema reportedly courted by Barcelona.
But Eidevall, blessed with a profusion of riches, has a balancing act on his hands.
Blackstenius is no doubt the No 9, Foord and Beth Mead are both in sensational form down either wing with Lia Walti and Kim Little – who make up that midfield three, although in different positions – similarly unlikely to be ousted any time soon. It leaves Maanum and Miedema to battle it out for that No 10 spot, or more likely, rotate into it.
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That being said, neither played as a No 10 against Zurich midweek as Eidevall made seven changes, showing just how he can tinker with his squad. Miedema moved back into the No 9 role – the first time she has started up front for Arsenal since February 5 – and has replaced Blackstenius through the middle in the last two games.
Let’s not forget too about Lina Hurting, Jordan Nobbs Mana Iwabuchi – the former two scoring in the Champions League on Thursday – who can also play in those attacking roles.
Uncovering a new dimension to Maanum’s play that has proved devastatingly effective, giving Arsenal another attacking option. Expect to see her back in that position sooner rather than later – perhaps against West Ham this weekend in the WSL, live on Sky Sports.
Arsenal are practically bursting at the seams going forward and they must now translate this into silverware. They have not won a trophy since the 2018/19 season when they were crowned WSL champions. For a club of this calibre with the players at their disposal, there are no excuses as to why they cannot win a trophy this season.
They have once again begun well, winning every game in all competitions so far and they are yet to concede a goal in the WSL. However, consistency is the key to any triumph and they must maintain that over the coming months as they hopefully reach the latter stages of multiple competitions.
It also further highlights just how Eidevall is continuing to develop his squad and players, while also using rotation and tactics to keep Arsenal competitive. While Maanum and Miedema may be the focal point at the moment – and to some extent Blackstenius – expect there to be more as the season progresses.
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