Steps Up: Matt Miazga

Last weekend, Matt Miazga shone in defence for Vitesse Arnhem as they lifted the KNVB Cup – Holland’s equivalent of the FA Cup - with a 2-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar. Lewis Baker and Nathan were also in the starting line-up.

In the wake of that success, the official Chelsea website caught up with our young American centre-back developing out on loan in the Eredivisie to hear about that fantastic day, the celebrations that followed, as well as his year as a whole in what has been a very productive first full season in European football…

Matt, first of all, let’s start with the Cup triumph. Many congratulations! What was it like?

Thank you! It was a wonderful experience: the build-up to the game, the atmosphere at the game and what it meant to the fans was incredible.

In all the existence of Vitesse Arnhem this is the first trophy that has been won and to be a part of it is something special. It was a great experience for me personally, for the team, and for the city of Arnhem and the supporters of Vitesse.

How do you feel you played?

For me personally every time I am on the pitch I like to keep a clean sheet, and we did that. I think I played a solid game, but the most important thing is that we won.

Tell us more about the atmosphere in Rotterdam for the game and also the celebrations that followed back in Arnhem…

It reminded me of when I watched FA Cup finals at Wembley on television. You have one half of the stadium in one team’s colours and the other half of the stadium in the other team’s colours. It was an electric atmosphere.

It was so loud. We could barely hear each other when we were trying to communicate on the pitch, but that’s part of the game! It was awesome to embrace our fans after the game where they were and lift the trophy with them. They were singing and celebrating and it was so nice to see.

The game was a little bit late so when we got back everyone was tired. We had a team barbeque at the training ground with family and friends, and then the next day we had an open bus tour through the city.

At the end of it, there was a big stage set up in the city centre with about 20,000 supporters. We were all introduced, there was singing and speeches and all the fans were celebrating. They were good scenes to be a part of!

Looking at the season as a whole for you, how do you feel it’s gone?

For me the most important thing was valuable game time. I felt like I’ve received that. On the pitch I feel like I have progressed as a player developing my game and trying to improve it.

Off the pitch as well you’re living in a different country, a different culture, a different language, you mature a lot and you adapt to the way of life here.

You have to take care of yourself as a professional. Being a young player playing in a different country you have to make sure you do the little things right, get your rest on time, have the right nutrition, and then focus on your game so everything is spot on and you can feel it in your performances on the pitch. That’s been very good as well.

So I have learned a lot on and off the pitch which has been very beneficial for me. 

You must be pleased you have forced your way into the first team reckoning having arrived at the end of the summer transfer window?

Coming a little late on loan it’s tough to break in because the team is set and you have to show your worth, but once you get a chance you have got to take it with both hands, and say ‘I am not going to be getting out of the team, I have got to perform at a high level every game’. That’s what I have tried to do, and improve myself and contribute to the team in any way I can. 

 Miazga in action for the Blues at Villa Park last season

What’s it been like working with Andy Myers - a former Chelsea defender - who is part of the coaching set-up at Vitesse this season?

Andy has been really good. We do a lot of personal, individual work together after training. He’s always giving me advice and helping me if I have questions about defending because he’s obviously played in the Premier League and has a lot of experience.

Having his knowledge and him being there has definitely helped me and I feel like I have been improving which is the most important thing.

What particular aspects of your game have developed?

I’ve played right centre-half most of my career and I’ve been playing left centre-half here, so just playing with my left foot and adapting to playing on the left side has been much better for me. I feel like it’s just as good as my right now.

As a professional you are never perfect but you are always striving to be perfect in every area. I feel like I have improved my passing, my building up, the sense of awareness and communication, and the most important thing which is experience of European football and getting games under my belt.

And, finally, you’ve played in MLS and the Premier League. How does the Eredivisie compare? 

It’s a very good league. It’s very technical, there are a lot of young players that play. The games are fast paced and the ball is on the ground most of the time. A lot of teams build out from the back.

The Premier League is a bit of everything, the best in the world, but the Dutch league is a good stepping stone for a lot of young players to play at a higher level. That’s what it is known for and that’s what it actually is.

Every game brings the best out of you and it’s about trying to perform and, for me, shutting down the opposing strikers. 

Top two photos courtesy of Paul Meima | Vitesse