Leah Williamson explains why she 'needed' break from football

Leah Willimson returned in Arsenal's WSL win over Everton
Leah Willimson returned in Arsenal's WSL win over Everton / Harriet Lander/GettyImages

Leah Williamson has admitted that having a break from football during a two-month injury layoff felt 'needed' after making her return for Arsenal against Everton on Saturday.

Williamson came off the bench for the final 22 minutes of the Gunners' 1-0 WSL victory over the Toffees; her first appearance since 28 September after being sidelined with a foot injury sustained while on international duty with England.

The 25-year-old has experienced a whirlwind few months, playing every minute at Euro 2022 in July as she captained the Lionesses to glory, before being thrust straight back into club duty with Arsenal, whose season started slightly earlier than the majority of other WSL teams as they had Champions League qualifiers to navigate.

Jonas Eidevall explained in his press conference on Friday that the Gunners had used Williamson's injury layoff as an opportunity for her to switch off following a hectic year.

"I think I needed it," Williamson said. "I wasn’t in the best place so I’ve used this time. I said I had to get something out of this; I’m injured, I can’t play so I’ve used it to my advantage as best I can and got myself back on track." 

The defender suffered a hamstring injury in November 2021 that left her sidelined for two months, and Arsenal struggled in her absence, including suffering a shock defeat to bottom side Birmingham that proved pivotal in narrowly missing out on the WSL title.

Although the Gunners were beaten by Manchester United at the Emirates in November, they did win six of the eight matches that Williamson missed through injury and even stunned European champions Lyon with a 5-1 victory. The centre-back admitted that returning to the Arsenal side following her injury felt different this season in comparison to last.

"I think it’s that element of control," she added. "The girls have done an amazing job. There’s been some incredible results in there. Obviously the loss to United, we wanted to come back and start again kind of thing.

"It’s been good, it’s been great; it’s nice feeling when you’re injured and you’re fighting to get back in and as soon as I come back in I felt well off the pace which is great because it means the team’s firing and hopefully [I'm] catching up a little now."

There was also a return to the match day squad for Williamson's centre back partner Rafaelle on Saturday. The defender had been sidelined for a near identical time period as Williamson after fracturing the metatarsus bone in her foot against Ajax in the Champions League in September.

"I love the girl honesty," Williamson said of Rafaelle. "We spend most days together, me her and Teyah [Goldie] have been a right little crew. But for me and Rafa it’s made the rehab drills a little bit easier, we’re both centre halves so we’re just working in a partnership like we do on the pitch so it’s been nice."