Spotlight on Daniëlle van de Donk

After six successful seasons with the Arsenal, Daniëlle van de Donk has confirmed her move to French giants Olympique Lyonnais.

The Dutch midfielder lifted one WSL trophy, an FA Cup and two Conti Cups during her time in England, establishing herself a key figure in the gunner’s intricate midfield. Van de Donk scored a fair 45 goals in 142 appearances, the largest number of appearances of any overseas player in Arsenal’s history. 

Crafty. This is the word that immediately springs to mind when one pores over van de Donk’s guileful game. She is crafty, in every sense. A wreaker of havoc with all the tricks and flicks to assure she is so without hesitation. Weaving in and out of oppositions with the intent to cause some damage, van de Donk reinforces her clever movement with a surprise or two up her sleeve.

Brazen in her approach, van de Donk teases games of cat and mouse, riling the calmest of feathers on her wily warpath. There is a feistiness, an almost scrappy determination to stamp her impression and an antagonistic audacity to leave in the poison after she has stung. Yet this fiery nature can sometimes result in trouble and van de Donk has been known to argue the toss when she deems decisions unfair. Perhaps it is a red mist, perhaps not, but there is certainly a fire within that keeps all those around her on their toes.

Yet, in a twist as unpredictable as those perilous feet, when another suffers a dangerous challenge, it is van de Donk that so firmly stands beside them. Teammate, opposition, even an official, it does not matter, van de Donk personally ensures the wellbeing of those around her. Perhaps that red mist is not so red after all.

Despite her gutsy nature van de Donk is not a troublesome player. Although the blindingly obvious passion she radiates may get her hot under the collar every now and again, van de Donk offers far more than the ability to bring it both barrels each and every time. Her attacking skillset lends her nicely to build-up play with her movements often key to the creation of chances.

Excelling when located high in the middle third, van de Donk is able to unlock defences with her astute positioning. Whether she is on the ball or not, van de Donk works to draw to in opponents which in turn opens up space for her teammates. Tirelessly putting in the ground work to swoop in on loose balls and dispossess high up the pitch, van de Donk uses her pace to quickly break lines and take oppositions off balance.  

Van de Donk is also notable for her visionary intelligence. With just a quick glance she is able to sweep the blueprint of the pitch and pick out the most valuable pass or progressive carry. She is slick with her dribbling and is able to cover significant distances with the ball at her feet before releasing it with accuracy. Her contribution to shot and goal creation cannot be downplayed.

With an obvious attacking flair, it has perhaps been slightly disappointing that in her final season with the Arsenal van de Donk has not been able to fully practice this, having been stationed in a deeper role. It has also been quite apparent she has not received the game time she likely sought and plausibly deserved. When accumulating these factors alongside a contract termination and an offer from one of the world’s most prolific clubs, Lyon, it is not wholly unexpected that van de Donk took the decision to leave North London.  

What van de Donk leaves behind at the Arsenal is more than just a number on a team sheet. She leaves a never-ending appetite, a lust for success, as well as some hypothetically big shoes to fill. Lyon have landed themselves an excellent recruit and one can bet in their bid to retake France. With van de Donk on side, their midfield just became a little more dangerous.

Photo: @ArsenalWFC