Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has confirmed Leah Williamson was withdrawn at half-time during Sunday’s WSL clash at Manchester City as an expected fitness precaution, not an injury setback.
Williamson had been one of Arsenal’s standout performers as they enjoyed a lightening fast start to the season, before suffering a hamstring injury after November’s north London derby which left her sidelined for just over two months.
Williamson made her long-awaited return off the bench against Manchester United in the Continental Cup last week and started against Manchester on Sunday. But the 24-year-old went down during the opening 45 minutes and was replaced at the break by debutant Rafaelle Souza.
Eidevall explained that Williamson had not been expected to last the full 90 minutes upon her return and the substitution was not injury-related.
“Leah isn’t injured,” Eidevall said, via arseblog. “We knew before that she couldn’t play for 90 minutes. We have to check with every player and she started to get tired so we decided to sub her.”
Williamson’s first team absence coincided with a downturn in form for the Gunners, with Arsenal enduring heavy Champions League defeats to Barcelona and Hoffenheim, a shock WSL loss to bottom side Birmingham and crashing out of the Conti Cup while she was out of the team.
Eidevall was unable to give a timescale for when the home-grown star, whose injury was initially described as ‘significant’, will return to full fitness. But the coach admitted he was hopeful that it would be sooner rather than later.
“Not long,” the Arsenal manager replied when asked when Williamson will be ready to complete 90 minutes. “She played 30 minutes on Wednesday and 45 minutes today, which is a quick turnaround.
“We didn’t expect her to return this early, so that’s really well done from her and the medical staff. Soon, I hope.”
Arsenal remain top following Tobin Heath’s last gasp equaliser against Manchester City, and face back-to-back crucial league fixtures against second place Manchester United and third place Chelsea at the beginning of February as they attempt to wrestle the WSL title away from the Blues.