When a player comes through the network of youth teams that represent the club and the various passages that a starlet must go through – and ends up as a first team player?
That player is automatically thrust forward as a fan favourite.
They represent the values of the club, they represent the culmination of the dream we all have – of pulling on that famous red and white and representing the club. They shared that dream but they made it happen.
Leah Williamson is one of those fan favourites.
Williamson made her debut in a high-pressure Champions League Quarter-Final. We lost 2-0 to Birmingham City that night. It shares an eerie similarity to Hector Bellerin’s debut for Arsenal. The Spaniard also made his debut in the Champions League. It too was a loss – 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund – but both Williamson and Bellerin have gone on to make huge strides in the first team.
Williamson though, has gone further than her fellow fan favourite.
Our number six joined Arsenal as a nine year old. That’s fourteen years as a Gunner, fourteen years steeped in our ways, traditions and methods. Williamson has gone through the ranks and not only established herself at the club, she is now one of the main reasons for our current success.
Williamson actually started as a midfielder. Making use of her composure on the ball and the ability to pick out her teammates with a swish of her boot, Williamson could have made her name in this position.
But it is as a defensive titan that Williamson has gone on to forge her reputation.
For both Arsenal and England, Leah has used the skills she has cultivated at the club and also developed her other talents. Now? She marshals our backline with leadership and gives opponents no inch.
But her style of defence is more than simply stopping the opponents from scoring.
Williamson is well known for her long-distance assists, piercing teams from deep and landing the ball on a teammate’s boot. Making it look easy. One particular goal that springs to mind was last season, a 50 yard pass through to an onrushing Jordan Nobbs, who volleyed past a stranded goalkeeper. In 2018/19, our title winning season, Williamson had completed more passes in the opposition half than any other Gunner – and had touched the ball more than any of her teammates.
She is still a defender, but her play is much more than that.
Williamson has been named England’s Youth Player of the Year, she is also a vital member of the national team squad.
But as a Gunner who has made it through the system, she is one of us and she holds the club close to her heart like we do.
Williamson is a fan favourite not just because she came through the Arsenal system – it’s also because of all she does on the pitch and how her future is as bright as her talent.