Leah Williamson: England and Arsenal captain will miss World Cup with ACL injury


England captain Leah Williamson says her World Cup “dream is over” after her club Arsenal confirmed she has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Williamson went down in the first half of Arsenal’s 1-0 Women’s Super League loss to Manchester United on Wednesday.

“The noise around the situation is loud and I need some quiet time to let it all sink in,” the defender, 26, said.

England’s opening World Cup match with Haiti takes place on 22 July.

Arsenal face Wolfsburg in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Sunday (14:30 BST).

Williamson added: “Unfortunately the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that is the main focus, but it’s the day to day of what I am about to go through that is the most draining of my thoughts.

“I had my tears and made my peace with it the night it happened and since then I have been following the steps I’m told to, in order to best help myself in the sport and long term.”

Why are so many women footballers suffering ACL injuries?
ACL injuries typically see sportspeople sidelined for six to nine months.

Arsenal said she would have surgery “in due course”.

Williamson, who captained England to their European Championship victory in 2022, is the latest injury setback for Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses.

England are already expecting to travel to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand without Beth Mead, who finished top scorer last summer, because of an ACL injury.

There are doubts over Chelsea forward Fran Kirby’s availability, having been out of action since February.

And Chelsea defender Millie Bright has been ruled out for several more weeks following the knee injury she sustained in March.

‘Devastating news for England’s hopes’
Siobhan Chamberlain, who was part of the England squad that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, said the injury was “horrific timing”.

“She is a key part of the team. It is devastating news for her, Arsenal, England and anyone who has big hopes for England,” former goalkeeper Chamberlain told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Sarina Wiegman is going to have to make a lot of changes to the squad and set-up because Leah covers more than one position and obviously as captain, it is a huge blow.”

The injury may provide an opportunity for former captain and Manchester City centre-back Steph Houghton to return to the fold.

Houghton is yet to play under Wiegman because of injuries and then selection choices.

Speaking earlier in April, Wiegman said Houghton’s chances of making the squad were “not that high” but she would “never close the door”.

“She just has to go about her business and play for Manchester City,” said Chamberlain.

“The biggest thing for her is her experience because they’ve lost Jill Scott and Ellen White from the Euros, now they’ve lost their captain and there are question marks over Fran Kirby and Millie Bright.

“There is a significant lack of tournament experience now in the squad. Even if she doesn’t necessarily bring Steph in as a starting centre-back, she is a good experienced player to have in the squad and someone who understands tournament football.”

WSL defends pitch standards after Eidevall warning
Williamson was injured after just 15 minutes of Wednesday’s WSL match at Leigh Sports Village after falling awkwardly while chasing possession and immediately signalling that she needed to be replaced.

A stretcher was initially brought on to the pitch, but a limping Williamson was able to walk off with support from a member of Arsenal’s medical staff.

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall said afterwards: “You see the pitch, it is a pitch that has a lot more to [be desired]. I think it’s going to continue here with the schedule we have and pitches like that, players are going to get injured.”

He added that facilities need to improve to “keep players on the pitch”.

On Friday a WSL spokesperson said pitches at WSL stadiums are monitored throughout the season with “steps taken” to support clubs where necessary.

Arsenal have already been impacted by serious injuries to key players this season including captain Kim Little, Ballon d’Or runner-up Mead and last season’s top scorer Vivianne Miedema.

‘With you every step of the way’ – support for Williamson
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said Williamson will be a “devastating loss” for the Lionesses and Arsenal.

“[She is] someone who has had a profound impact on club and country [so it’s] disappointing to see such a huge injury again,” said Hayes.

“I’ve said this many times – I think we need to stay away from lazy comments about the causes of these injuries. It’s multi-faceted.”

On social media the England national team responded on Instagram: “You’ll come back stronger than ever.”

Team-mate Mead said on Twitter: “We are with you every step of the way, even if I have to be quiet some days in rehab.

“We got you girl, all the love and strength in the world.”

Meanwhile Fifpro, a global union for professional footballers, said on Twitter: “As news of Leah Williamson’s World-Cup-ending ACL injury breaks, the words of her England team-mate Beth Mead have never rung truer.

“More. Research. Needed.”

Analysis – England’s World Cup hopes dented
Emma Sanders, BBC Sport

It is the worst possible news for Sarina Wiegman with three months to go until the World Cup.

Williamson’s importance to England cannot be understated. She is the captain, part of a formidable centre-back partnership with Millie Bright and a calming influence on her team-mates.

She started and captained every game as England won Euro 2022 last summer and played in 22 of the Lionesses’ incredible 30-match unbeaten run.

With Arsenal team-mate Beth Mead already ruled out with an ACL injury, England are now almost certainly without last summer’s top scorer and their captain, while Chelsea’s Fran Kirby and Bright are currently on the injury list, adding to concerns.


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