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Lionesses star Williamson opens up on ‘toughest contract decision’ yet after renewing with Arsenal

1:37 PM EDT 6/16/21
Leah Williamson Arsenal Women 2020-21
The England international has put pen to paper on a new deal after Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain and Wolfsburg were all reportedly interested

Arsenal defender Leah Williamson believes the club still has ambition and she trusts the right managerial appointment will be made this summer after the departure of Joe Montemurro.

The defender signed a new contract on Wednesday, ending months of speculation after her previous deal was set to expire this summer. New French champions Paris Saint-Germain were among those reported to be interested in the England international, as were former European champions Lyon and Wolfsburg.

However, Williamson will remain with the club with whom she won the 2018-19 Women’s Super League title as she is confident that, after finishing third in the past two seasons, the Gunners have what it takes to get back to the top.

What has been said?

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Williamson said: “This has been the toughest decision, contract wise, I've had to make, in terms of where I'm at in my career, and where the club is at.

“I think that was what I had to weigh up. Do we have the ambitions, firstly, that match my own? Do we want to be that team to compete, and can we compete? Those were the things that I just wanted to confirm, anything that I maybe was just a bit on the fence about because, as you know, Arsenal is everything to me.

“It was time to really make a football decision and not be blinded by my absolute love and affection for the football club.

“I put my emotion maybe to one side and just looked at it as a footballer. I almost looked at it from the perspective of, 'if I wasn't at Arsenal, would I sign for the football club?' That's where I had to sort of put myself in my head to make sure that I was making decisions for the right reasons.

“Once I weighed everything up, and the type of player that I am, how I've been brought up to play football, and maybe where my next steps are, I still think that Arsenal is the perfect base for me to take what I'm good at to the next level and hopefully add the different side of my game that maybe will take me to the top.

“Whilst this is still a place where I can be developing every day and pushing myself, then there was no question really. The ambition of the club, I still believe, is top and I can't wait to see what we can achieve.”

Who will Arsenal’s new manager be?

Williamson said she believes in the club when it comes to appointing a successor to Montemurro, who delivered the club’s first league title in seven years in 2019. The Aussie left the Gunners at the end of the season and was recently announced as the new head coach of Juventus.

“I was actually really lucky - and I do feel fortunate for these kinds of things. I think this is why I've always loved Arsenal and the type of football club that it is - I've been in regular contact with Vinai [Venkatesham, managing director] and those people higher up in the club just because they understood where I was at,” the 24-year-old said.

“Every player, really, needs that information if they're about to sign a contract or not. In the end, based on what they were looking for, what I want in a manager - and like I've said that player development thing is very important to me - and that's sort of top of their list as well.

“I basically wanted to know that the ambitions that I think the club have, they do have. I think after those conversations with them, I was happy to put my trust in the fact that they would pick somebody right for the job basically.”

What transfer business will Arsenal do?

There has been transfer speculation regarding a number of Williamson’s team-mates as well this summer. With midfielder Jill Roord and defender Ruby Mace having already departed, both Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema have been linked with Lyon, with the latter also reportedly interesting Barcelona.

Williamson admitted possible outgoings were something she couldn’t really “base [her] decision on” given those matters are “out of [her] control”, but emphasised her confidence in the club’s ability to get back to the top.

“I think we've had a lot of honest discussions this year and with the type of club that Arsenal are, the women's team have really been involved in those discussions,” she said.

“I'm a very logical person. I like to know a plan almost, and I think that the first step to that is maybe going, 'okay, we're not competing in this area, how do we fix that?' Arsenal are putting that in place.

“There's a lot still to be done, but the identification of those areas where we fall short a little bit, or have fallen short in the last couple of seasons and we've not maybe competed right at the top of the league, that's the first step for me.

“The club has given me so much over the years, it's my turn, probably, to show my support back to them in terms of being here to see that through.”

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