• Wiktoria Kornat

Leah Williamson - she's one of our own

Updated: Apr 10

22 year old English footballer. She currently plays for Arsenal and England women's national football team


Club career Leah Williamson joined Arsenal Ladies Centre of Excellence in 2006 as a nine-year-old. She made her senior team debut on 30th of March 2014 in UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final game against Birmingham City. Arsenal lost 0:2, Leah came as a substitution in 81st minute of the game. 17 days after that, she made her FA WSL debut, it was the game against Notts County on 16th of April 2014. She didn't have to wait long for her first major title with Arsenal. They won in the 2014 Women's FA Cup final against Everton on 1st of June, Leah changed Jade Bailey in the 76th minute of the match. On July 13, she scored her first goal for the team in a 4:0 win against Millwall Lionesses in the League Cup. On 4th of September she scored her first league goal for Arsenal. It's worth adding that it was a match against Chelsea, it must've been very special feeling to score in the London derby. In her first season with the senior team she made 12 appearances in the 2014 FA Women's Super League. At the end of the 2014 season, she was named the League Cup Player of the Year. She was ahead of Ji So-yun from Chelsea and Toni Duggan from Manchester City, who - let's be honest - are quite well-known names in English women's football. On 8th of January 2015, Leah won the England Women's Youth Player of the Year award. On 31st of March, right before the start of the 2015 FA Women's Super League, Williamson signed her first professional contract with Arsenal. In April she was named the 2014–15 PFA Young Women's Player of the Year. She scored her first goal of the season in a 3:0 win over Watford in the League Cup on 23rd of July 2015. She was a key player in the club's very successful League Cup campaign, after the quarter-final win (1:0 on 1st of October) over Manchester City. Leah Williamson helped her team reach the final of the 2016 FA Cup where Arsenal won 1:0 over Chelsea. However, Arsenal's way to the final was a really difficult journey. In 5th round, 1:1 draw against Birmingham City, promotion after a penalty win 5:3. And 6th round, game against Notts County ended with a draw 2:2, promotion after penalty win 5:4. In the semi-final a strong 7:0 win over Sunderland (I feel sorry for Beth Mead). But in the final, held on May 14 at Wembley, Arsenal deservedly won the title after an amazing goal by Danielle Carter in the 18th minute of the match. What a goal it was. Williamson played the whole 90 mins in the 2017-18 FA WSL Cup Final, in which Arsenal beat Man City 1:0 after Vivianne Miedema's goal. However, Arsenal's league campaign ended with quite a disappointment. The team finished the season in third place, one point behind Manchester City, therefore they didn't qualify for the Champions League. What's worth adding, Leah Williamson started the season in midfield, but in December 2017 new manager - Joe Montemurro - switched her to central defense. Leah made a comment on the new coach's decision, she said: "I’m not sure in the long term and I never want to shut the door on either position, because I know I can do both. But I’m enjoying playing as a centre back with the way we play. Under Joe we want to play out from the back and that suits my qualities. At the minute I'm enjoying playing at centre half, but I’m open minded about what the future holds." On 14th of October 2018 Arsenal made a huge step in their title challenge with a big 5:0 win over champions -Chelsea. It was the first Chelsea's home defeat since July 2016. Arsenal won their first 9 games and went into the match with Manchester City 6 points clear of their title rivals. 13th of January 2019 was a special day for Leah, the league match against Chelsea was her 100th appearance for Arsenal. She achieved it at the age of 21, which is admirable. On 23th of February Arsenal lost against Man City in the FA WSL Continental Cup Final( 4:2 on penalties). Back in the league, Arsenal won 3 games in a row, scoring 10 goals while conceding none. The team won another four games in a row to clinch the title with a 4:0 win over Brighton on 28th of April 2019. Williamson was typically modest in her own performance in the title clinching match: "I think that might be the worst I’ve ever played for the club and it’s because of how much this game and this title means to me. That’s something I’ll learn from, but I won’t apologise for feeling that way." In the title winning season 2018/19, the most common passing duo was Williamson to Evans (centre back to right wing back). Leah finished the season as Arsenal's most active player on the ball with 1,501 touches. Moreover, she completed the most successful passes in the opposition’s half (591). She also made more interceptions than any other player in Arsenal's squad (30).


Speaking about Leah Williamson's international career... Williamson has represented England since 2010 at youth levels. She captained England women's national U-17 football team in the 2014 UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship held in England in November and December 2013. She was also part of the England women's national U-20 football team which competed in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada in August 2014. During this tournament Williamson started in every England's match. In November 2017 Williamson was called up the senior England squad. She made her debut for the senior team in a 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier against Russia. England won 3-1. She was also a part of the squad who won 2–0 over Denmark for one of their final friendly preparation matches for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. Leah Williamson went for a 2019 SheBelievesCup in USA with England and played in the final game. The Lionesses won 3-0 over Japan. In May 2019 Leah was announced as a one of the players who had been selected for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup squad. On being selected for the squad, Williamson said: "I can’t be more thankful because I think I’m the luckiest girl in the world." Leah made her World Cup debut from the bench in the round of 16 match against Cameroon on 23th ofJune 2019 in Valenciennes . She scored her first England goal in a 3-2 friendly win against Czech Republic on 12th of November 2019. It was an 86th minute winner.


Leah Williamson at the age of only 22 is the key player for Arsenal Women's team. The first word that comes to my mind and I think it's the most appropriate word to describe Leah as a player is 'versatile'. Leah Williamson is a versatile player, which in the context of the development of tactical thought in football, works in her favor. In the modern game, full-backs need a wide range of attributes due to the fact that there are physical and technical demands of their playing position and the fact that defenders are quite commonly used in offensive actions, full-backs often have a share in assists with their runs down the flank when the team is on a counter-attack. What works in Leah's favor is definitely the fact that a large part of her career she played as a central midfielder. It wasn't until Joe Montemurro moved her to the position of central defender. Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro definitely appreciated her hard work by saying: "Leah’s really adapting to a bit more of a pro-active defending methodology. She’s got a bit of freedom to go forward and I’m really enjoying working with her. She’s getting the rewards for the amazing work that she’s put in over pre-season and the season so far, so all credit to her." As a centre back, Leah obviously focuses on securing the defensive block, but she has something that makes her quite special centre back. She feels great with the ball next to her foot, she is calm and composed and plays the ball perfectly in the positional game from the very beginning. Leah has a great vision, can play very accurate passes and in a few matches she has proved that her cross-field passes are brilliant. One precise cross to the wing drives the team's static action so far. She also tries to take part in team's attacks and does it really successfully, whether by creating the attack opportunities with a long pass from the depth of the field or using opponent's defense gaps with starting the action of her team. If she finds free space on the pitch she is not afraid to use it. She shown her excellent technique in delivering such precise long passes in a home match against Birmingham City on 5th of January 2020. Leah assisted at Arsenal's second goal. She sent a precise diagonal pass from Arsenal's half, the ball landed just behind the back of Birmingham's defenders. Excellent height and pass strength, measured so that it fell right under Nobbs' feet, who allowed the ball to bounce once and hit it with a beautiful lob over the goalkeeper, placing the ball in the back of the net. Beautiful goal, but it's worth to appreciate Leah's assist - phenomenal. Another standout performance came a week later. It was an away match against Brighton Hove Albion. Leah played on the right side of back three. She helped her team to open the scoring after just three minutes of the match. She launched a crossfield pass over Brighton’s defense and into the path of Danielle van de Donk. It was just brilliant. But that wasn't the end of her individual brilliance which she showed in this match. She made another assist. During one of the actions, she found herself on the right wing and played a perfectly measured pass into the penalty area, which landed right under Jill Roord's feet, who finished the action with an equally precise shot. You may think that this is not unusual, but for me, her technique and passing accuracy is impressive. It is worth seeing, video highlights from both games are on YouTube. Leah Williamson is an extremely talented young player. Her vision of the game and sense of awareness are at the top level. Leah is good in the air, this is one of her main advantages. She knows how to get in space on the pitch, when her teammates have the ball, so that she is always open for a pass if they need her. Leah also has great sense of anticipation and good tackling ability, she's very strong in the tackle, but the thing is that she usually doesn't even have to tackle. She has such great positional awareness that she often stops an attack by intercepting passes, so that she doesn't even need to tackle a player often. She has an extraordinary player intelligence on the pitch. I've seen a lot of Arsenal matches and every time I focused on Leah I could see how well she set herself in the defense. She is perfectly aware of what is going on around her on the pitch. She constantly corrects her position, step back, two steps forward, she moves so as not to stay too close to attacking players, so she won't be vulnerable to being pulled out from her position and leaving a gap in the defense. This is obviously common for defenders, full-backs need to decide during the game whether to stick close to an opponent or maintain a suitable distance. Despite her young age, she shows maturity and composure on the pitch. Actually, if she already has over 100 games played for Arsenal at the age of 22, we can call her an experienced player. It's worth repeating and emphasizing - at just 22 years old. She has a huge amount of experience at the top level compared to most players at her age. It is worth quoting the words of manager Joe Montemurro, who appreciates and notices her talent, maturity and how important player for his team she is. On Leah, Joe Montemurro said: "For a girl of her age to show the maturity and the ability to understand the game, the way she positions herself- her positioning is like a 30 year old pro. She always finds the pass, she’s unbelievable. She has all the attributes to be an amazing footballer and an amazing centre-back on the world scale. We love having her at Arsenal." The current coach of the England women's national team has also been praising Leah. Phil Neville attended one of the Arsenal's game, right before the World Cup. After watching Leah's performance, he said: "This girl is a star. You get some players who are born to captain England. She’s a leader. She’s only 22, and she comes into the squad and acts like a 30-year-old."


Leah as a Gooner I'm sure that every die-hard fan of any football team loves having a football player or players who literally could die for their club. Footballers who love the club and show their passion and attachment to the club at every step. Arsenal women's team fans, it sounds familiar, huh? I think that every fan of the Arsenal women's team (and not only) when they hear "Leah Williamson" immediately thinks to themselves - a true Gooner. And I can't argue with that, because she repeatedly shows her love for this team not only on the pitch, but she also proudly speaks about that in interviews. Arsenal loves her and she loves Arsenal. After big 5:0 win over Chelsea on Kingsmeadow on 14th of October 2018, Leah confessed how much that win meant to her: "I said to Mitch (Emma Mitchell) as we were walking over, as an Arsenal supporter I hope that they feel it, that I feel exactly what they’re feeling watching this game. First and foremost I’m a supporter of this football club." A few weeks later her nature of a die-hard Arsenal fan appeared again. On the achievement of reaching 100 appearances at the age of just 21, Williamson said: "Naturally, I'm always striving for more. In our meeting room at the training ground, the names of all the women who have made 100 appearances are on the wall and I look at some of the names on that wall and, without being too much of a fan girl, a lot of them are my heroes. It’s amazing to be up there now in their company. But it’s about the future for me too and the first 100 is amazing and especially at my age, I really do aim to get a few hundred more yet with this football club and in this shirt. This is more than just a football club to me. My family are all Arsenal supporters and they remind me every day that I'm living a dream to play here and I hope that I have made them proud." Leah impresses with her confidence and exceptional honesty in everything she says. For example, in her words after the FA WSL Continental Cup final defeat against Manchester City on 23th of February 2019. After that game she said: "That gives you a good idea of the character and resilience of this team. But also we’ve got players that know what it means to be Arsenal and we’ve got new players that already know what that means. Today we maybe didn’t play the Arsenal way, but that character is what it takes to play for a top team to take a game as far as you can, to fight and when it comes to the league, that’s exactly what we will do. We’re pissed off now and we’ve only got one target to focus on and we’ll give it every thing we’ve got." I guess, we can only imagine how much winning the championship title with Arsenal must have meant for Leah and the whole team. On 28th of April 2019, after a solid 4: 0 victory against Brighton Hove Albion, Arsenal secured the league championship, Leah didn't hide how important this achievement was for her. As a childhood Arsenal fan it meant the world to Leah and again great words came out of her mouth: "I came here when I was 9 and we were winning the league every year and it was all I ever wanted, to win the league with Arsenal. I guess I thought I would walk into the team one day and it would just happen. But the game has developed so much and the competition is so fierce, to win that out there is absolutely unbelievable. I thought it might come sooner, but the wait has made it sweeter." I think that even without being an Arsenal fan, everyone would agree that a player who talks about his/her club in such a way and shows such attachment to the club is simply unique. Her passion for this club is admirable and that's why I decided to pay some attention to it in this article.


Leah Williamson is one of the most promising young players in the country. At just 22 years old, the number of her football achievements is impressive. Well, loking at the number of matches she has played so far, it can be said that she is already an experienced player, which is a bit crazy if we are talking about a player at such a young age. But such a positive reputation at the club and the sympathy that fans have for her, it didn't come by itself. She has earned it. If Leah Williamson will keep developing as she is developing so far, I'm convinced that we are currently looking at the future captain of the Arsenal women's team and I'm willing to risk the statement that even the future captain of the England women's national football team.


A note from the author


I'm extremely happy that I can publish my articles here, but I want to leave the name of my own blog here, because this is where I always publish them first: usualunusualmotivation.sport.blog