Arsenal midfielder Leah Williamson is raring to go as the new FA WSL season commences this weekend after a frustrating time with injury that has taught her some harsh lessons in her young career.
The 20-year-old midfielder, who returned to the Arsenal line-up during the recent Spring Series, missed most of 2016 after having surgery on an ankle injury in June. This followed a spell out in 2015, while she was also pictured on crutches earlier this year after another knock.
At just 20, the England youth international has had some hurdles to overcome and some mental challenges to battle through, but she showed during the recent Spring Series that she is fighting fit, and played a big role on her side going unbeaten during the mini competition.
“I feel really good at the moment,” she said.
“I’ve learnt a lot of harsh lessons very early on in my career and have experienced things that luckily, some players will go their whole career without.
“But I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off every time and when I go on the pitch its extra incentive. Nobody wants to be on the side-lines, especially when it’s out of your hands. It’s been a tough time, but I’m loving being back on the grass.”
Williamson is Arsenal through and through, and if you ask her to play in goal, she probably would. Over the last couple of years she has played across the backline, and in the centre of midfield.
During the back end of the Spring Series, and in the side’s friendly win against Everton, Williamson played in a holding midfield role behind the likes of Jordan Nobbs and Danielle van de Donk.
It is here that she thrives, and it is also here, that she admits, she likes to play and where she can allow others to express themselves.
“In the end centre half became quite homely having played a few games there, but I just like a central role as I enjoy being in the thick of it.
“I’m in a good place and trying to learn and I feel there is more I can develop in my attacking and defending.
“I’m learning so much from the likes of Jordan and Danielle, and I like to think I give them a good balance. I cover up so they can express themselves. When they move I move, They’re so much more experienced than I am, so it’s a learning experience.”
As already stated, Arsenal went the entire Spring Series undefeated, but too many draws meant they were unable to overcome Chelsea, who claimed the title.
This coming season, there is no club with more eyes on them following another big recruitment drive to follow additions made in the spring. EURO 2017 winner Vivianne Miedema comes in from Bayern Munich, as does Scotland winger Lisa Evans, German defender Josy Henning returns to the club after a short spell with Lyon, while Sweden right-back Jessica Samuelsson also joins the club. Add that to the recruitment of Heather O’Reilly, Louise Quinn, Beth Mead and Kim Little – who will miss most of this season with an ACL injury – Arsenal are stacked with depth.
That depth ensures no player can have an off day, and Williamson outlined that with the new competition for places, every player is being kept on their toes.
“The standard has gone through the roof since players returned from the EUROs. It’s incredible who we have brought in.
“We’re all professionals, every day is game day when it comes to training. We’re trying not to slip up, and if you do you work your butt off to recover. Everyone is talking about how good we look on paper, now its for us to show how good we are on the pitch.”