Arsenal Women 1 Juventus Femminile 0
Vivianne Miedema may well spark a new trend, as her bounce in form since taking a self-imposed two-week break has been remarkable, the Dutch striker scoring three goals in three starts since returning for Arsenal.
Her contribution on Wednesday night was called "extraordinary" by manager Jonas Eidevall, and helped them to a 1-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League. It improved on their draw in Turin late last month – where Miedema also scored – and keeps Arsenal unbeaten and top of their tricky group. They remain above current holders Lyon, who they face next Wednesday, and well on track to progress to the knock-outs.
In the modern, demanding and frankly relentless world of elite sport, it is not all that uncommon anymore for top talents to ask for some time out. But strikers of Miedema's calibre requesting a mid-season break in the middle of a tight title race and European campaign, may have been expected to spend some time with their feet up focusing on anything other than football.
She did the complete opposite, and flew halfway across the world to Adelaide, Australia, to conduct her own pre-season of sorts. As unconventional as it appeared, it clearly worked as her sharpness has improved dramatically.
Miedema, 26, negotiated a couple of weeks off in November, as she said contracting Covid during the Euros in the summer had set back her fitness this season. The difference between her performances before her break to now has been stark: the Women's Super League record goalscorer cannot stop scoring. "When you are fit again, the game becomes easier for me," she had told reporters on the eve of this tie.
Her 16th-minute goal and performance on Wednesday night was further evidence. She sashayed her way into the Juventus box with the ball on numerous occasions and pick-pocketed defenders energetically. Then she showed great reactions in the first half, when Stina Blackstenius's cross was tipped her way and she volleyed into the back of the net with her first touch.
Asked the biggest difference he had noticed in Miedema's form, Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall said: "It’s as easy as being mentally ready to play and to train and to enjoy. I think in the last two games here we’ve seen some brilliant stuff from her both in offence and defence.
"The weight of her touch and her passes are extraordinary, the way she is doing stuff like that. If we just improve her finishing a little we’d be talking about more assists."
Though former Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro's Juventus side ran the hosts close all game, Arianna Caruso's strike in the first five minutes was the closest they came to scoring.
Arsenal Women (4-3-3): Zinsberger; Wienroither, Williamson (Rafaelle, 61), Wubben-Moy, Catley; Wälti, Maanum, Miedema; McCabe, Blackstenius (Nobbs, 79), Foord (Beattie, 92).
Goal: Miedema (16).
Substitutes not used: Marckese, Maritz, Iwabuchi, Agyemang.
Juventus Femminile (4-3-3): Peyraud-Magnin; Lenzini, Sembrant, Salvai, Boattin; Pedersen (Gunnarsdottir, 80), Grosso, Caruso (Cantore, 65); Bonansea (Cernoia, 46), Girelli (Bonfantini, 89), Beerensteyn.
Substitutes not used: Aprile, Forcinella, Rosucci, Lundorf, Zamanian, Schatzer, Duljan.
Referee: Ivana Martincic (Croatia).