Victoria Pelova: Arsenal’s adaptable star from The Netherlands

Victoria Pelova of Arsenal
Victoria Pelova of Arsenal during the FA WSL match against Aston Villa at Meadow Park on May 27, 2023. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

“Victoria Pelova is one of the game’s most exciting youngsters.” That’s what Arsenal’s head coach, Jonas Eideval, had to say about the Dutch talent. Victoria Pelova has been instrumental in some of the most important attacking outings of Arsenal. In this article, we will explore why that is.

Pelova moving to England

She was arguably seen as the missing link for Arsenal Women when she first joined in January 2023. She spent three years at the Eredivisie Vrouwen with ADO Den Haag after which she moved to Ajax. There she played for 2,5 years in Eredivisie Vrouwen — the top women’s league in the Netherlands. After which she moved to the English Women’s Super League. Pelova has been one of Arsenal’s most flexible players, alongside the likes of Katie McCabe and Leah Williamson, since the start of the winter season.

Starting as a talented midfielder, the 24-year-old became an effective and overlapping right winger later in the season and a driving force to the team. Flourishing as a right-back and defensive midfielder too, the Dutchwoman is recognised for her adaptability on the pitch.

Through the different positions that Pelova can fall into, the playmaker consistently brings fruition to the game. Manipulating the ball to make a lot of space to execute her finishes, Pelova adapts to the rhythm of attacking or makes excellent assists. And Pelova’s decision-making is a valuable skill when it comes to dribbling through the opposition to support 

Catching the eye of the experts

There is no doubt that her value to the club and to manager Jonas Eidevall is appreciated through her exceptional abilities. Victoria catches my eye due to her ability to exploit as much space as possible while controlling the midfield with her skills and attitude.

The Gunner is able to exploit opportunities by finding openings in opposition defences, which was seen against Leicester. Arsenal’s game against Leicester City is a perfect example of one of Pelova’s peak performances. You can see that in the data visualisation below:

Her influential play is visible in the data visualisation above which shows us her pass map, territory map and defensive actions maps. The number 21 influenced the game with no surprises throughout the game.

Pelova influential against Leicester City

Pelova stays on the ball by involving herself a lot, whether that’s coming from being in a wider position or being more central. The pass map above shows the amount of successful and unsuccessful passes she had made. Despite 26.8% of her unsuccessful passes, she had a 53.7% successful pass rate against Leicester City- which in hindsight comes after Arsenal were losing 2-0 at halftime yet finished the game with a 6-2 win.

As a midfielder, she succeeds in her position as an incisive passer despite being one of the youngest and fairly new to the squad. When the opportunity arises, a mastery she is slowly working towards succeeding, she calculates precision before aiming shots for long distances, straight on or from the sides of the wings

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Given the fact that she had also scored her team’s fourth goal and produced two assists at King Power Stadium, the 24-year-old clearly took charge. Pelova is seen as an influencer on the ball when looking at the territory map.

Box-to-box midfielder

Playing as a box-to-box midfielder, she operates between the lines as she weaves through the pitch by covering as many areas as necessary. This creativity of expanding creates an air of adaptability. Capable in other positions on the pitch, she dominates by commanding play.

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“She (Pelova) was the playmaker in that midfield, she ran everything through, and she’s a big reason as to why Arsenal won that game,” Tottenham striker Bethany England told Sky Sports after the game.

Against Arsenal’s game against Brighton, Pelova grew with urgency yet full composure on the pitch with 76% of accurate passes made.

Massive performance against Bayern Munich

But my love for Pelova goes way back from the UEFA Women’s Champions League when Arsenal played against Bayern Munich during the second leg.

Her skill to settle into the team and insert herself into the squad so early made it easier for her to perform on a higher scale. A favourite example is her cross in the 26th minute. Down on the bottom right, her cross lands to Katie McCabe who then slots herself into the penalty area from her left where she chips the ball as Stina Blackstenius headers it into the back of the net for an incredible finish.

As Pelova was on the wing, she avoided a 1-v-1 with opponents to allow movement and keep the ball rolling. Distinctly proving her competency on the pitch, Victoria Pelova illuminates her worth through chance creation and manipulative techniques.

A youngster who has only just started in the WSL, this shining star is the club’s next big thing.

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