Thursday 21 September 2017, 09:49

Striking Lionesses find their own way to the top

  • Arsenal duo Jodie Taylor and Vivianne Miedema in the running for The Best FIFA Women’s Player

  • Pair arrive after exceptional Women’s EURO performances

  • Both appear in the top ten players for the first time after following very different career paths

One of the standout features in the shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player is the prominence of Lionesses. Four to be precise, coming in white and English or Dutch and orange varieties – more than either nation has ever had in the running.

Two of those, namely forwards Jodie Taylor and Vivianne Miedema, are set to kick off the new English Women’s Super League season on Saturday sharing another colour: the red of Arsenal. They catch the eye among this year’s nominees not only for their finishing prowess, but for the very different paths they have taken towards earning their first time among the ten best players in the world.

Miedema, 21, shot onto the Netherlands scene as a 15-year-old prodigy before making her international debut just over two years later. Taylor, however, played in the USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden and her native England across ten years before getting her first call up to the England squad in 2014.

“It's funny how people look at age,” the 31-year-old told the Daily Telegraph. “I feel like you can watch a player, it doesn't matter how old they are, you can see where they're at in their career. I certainly don't feel anywhere near the end.”

While almost a decade separates them on their journey through the game, what unites them – as this year has proven – is a deadly eye for goal.

Different styles but bags of goals Taylor has wasted no time in forging her position at the head of England’s strike-force ever since, battling through injuries to see her clinch the golden boot at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017. “She is a natural, natural goalscorer,” former England men’s counterpart Michael Owen explained to the Independent. “You could see it. Even if she doesn’t score a goal, you can see in her movement.

“She’s just naturally alert and instinctive to scoring goals, and her choices in front of goal are just perfect.” Among the five that got her the goalscoring gong was a treble that sees her alongside only Gary Lineker and Geoff Hurst as England players to score a hat-trick at a major tournament.

She crucially could not continue that fine run of form into the semi-finals, however, when it was the younger of the pair who shone on the way to lifting the title. Just a goal behind Taylor in the race for golden boot, the last three of hers were key, scoring once against England and twice in the final versus Denmark.

While Owen saw much of himself in Taylor, Miedema, whose ambidextrous play – often starting from a little deeper than her new Arsenal team-mates – has seen her compared to the likes of compatriots Johan Cruyff and Arjen Robben, is dismissive of the somewhat lazy links.

“These comparisons are not correct at all,” she told Hoogeveensche Courant. “I hope I'll be seen as the girl who plays football like Miedema. Much is said about me, and that's a lot of fun, but I can’t accept that.”

Even so, that reputation has seen teams react accordingly. “I think teams have a lot of respect for me, in games they’ve put like three players on me and that just gives other players more room, so it’s fine by me!”

FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015

  • Taylor: 4 games, 1 goal, third-place finish

  • Miedema: 4 games, 1 assist, eliminated in the Round of 16

UEFA Women’s EURO 2017

  • Taylor: 4 games, 5 goals, eliminated in the semi-finals

  • Miedema: 6 games, 4 goals, title winners

But with the international summer behind them both, adorned with either personal or collective gold, the challenge now is to pool that success in North London (while hoping for an invite to The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony down the road!).

“You could see Jodie’s talent at the Euros, scoring amazing goals and playing really well,” Miedema told Arseblog, when discussing the race for places up front at Arsenal, having signed in May. “It would be amazing if could find a way to play us altogether. I’d love it if we (and fellow forward Beth Mead) could all play alongside one another, but we’ll see.”

Whether either finds their name among the final three on Friday or not, their presence on the same team sheet this season is certainly going to be a chilling prospect for defences.