England boss Sarina Wiegman has expressed concern over the demands on international players following the injury that has ruled Leah Williamson out of her latest squad.
Williamson is missing from Wiegman’s 23-player squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Latvia after sustaining a hamstring problem in Arsenal’s 1-1 Women’s Super League draw at Tottenham on Saturday.
The Gunners on Tuesday described the injury as “significant”, while manager Jonas Eidevall said it was possible Williamson would be sidelined for the rest of the calendar year, adding that it was “an overload issue” and describing Arsenal’s schedule as “almost inhuman”.
Wiegman, who has had Williamson as captain for her four games in charge of England so far, told a press conference when asked about the injury: “I spoke to her. Of course she’s very disappointed and I’m very disappointed. We actually didn’t expect it would be this bad.
“I am concerned about the total programme of the players. When you are an international player you have tournaments in the summer, then you have the Champions League, then you have your domestic competitions. So the players have so many games and we really have to consider when are they going to have some rest, physical, mental, because you are just a human being.
“We have had this discussion for a long time already. I think Fifa, Uefa, the FA is in contact too, clubs too. We really have to think of our players and the welfare of our players.”
Williamson had been skippering England in the absence of Steph Houghton, who remains unavailable due to injury along with the likes of fellow Manchester City players Lucy Bronze and Ellie Roebuck.
City’s Ellen White – who is on 99 caps – is part of the squad and when questioned about the possibility of the striker taking the armband, Wiegman said: “I can’t tell you now because we haven’t discussed it yet.
“It’s so fresh that Leah’s not here with us, so we’re just taking that time to make that decision and then talk to the squad first.”
Regarding the prospect of White reaching a century of England appearances, Wiegman said: “For her this is a major moment of course and a major moment in English football.
“When you have 100 caps for your national team, that is a major result, milestone. So that will be really nice and you’ll take that with you forever of course. But first let’s come together and then see who is going play on Saturday [against Austria].”
Also in the squad is the returning Jordan Nobbs, a first inclusion under Wiegman for the Arsenal midfielder, who was recovering from an ankle problem at the start of this season.
Wiegman said: “We have been following Jordan of course the whole season and she has done well, she has made a lot more playing minutes too.
“I’m looking forward to working with her next week. She brings energy in the team, she is always dynamic, and technically good.”
England face Austria at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on November 27, then take on Latvia at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium three days later. Their four games to date under Weigman have seen them open their Group D campaign by scoring 32 goals without reply, beating North Macedonia, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland and Latvia 8-0, 10-0, 4-0 and 10-0 respectively.
Both Austria and Northern Ireland will be group-stage opponents for Wiegman’s side at the England-hosted Euros next summer.
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