Sarina Wiegman has a tough decision ahead of her just months before England begin their campaign at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Leah Williamson, suffered a a ruptured ACL during Arsenal’s Women’s Super League match against Manchester United on Wednesday night, meaning that she will miss the upcoming tournament.
Williamson has been key for the Lionesses under Wiegman’s reign thus far. Her performances at centre-back during the 2022 Euros were a massive reason that England went on to lift their first ever major trophy, and her ability to play both in defence and in midfield is a huge asset that will be missed.
The England coach will now have to assess her options based on what she has seen at previous training camps and make a decision on who goes to the World Cup.
During the Lionesses’ Euros win, Wiegman called up seven defenders, plus Williamson, who was listed as a midfielder.
Of those eight players, six are able to play as centre-backs: Williamson, Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood (who can also play as a left-back), Lotte Wubben-Moy, Jess Carter (who predominantly plays as a full-back for Chelsea), and Demi Stokes (who prefers to play as a left-back).
During the Euros, the starting centre-back partnership was Williamson and Bright, but with the latter also struggling with a knee injury and, according to Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, is out for at least a few weeks, Wiegman may be going into the World Cup with a brand new centre-back pairing.
It almost goes without saying that if Bright is fit, she starts for England.
She was arguably one of the sides’ most important players during last summer’s Euros, and is equally as dominant for Chelsea. Her interceptions, tackles, and clearances make it difficult for the world’s best strikers to get past her, and she’s a massive set-piece threat on the other end as well.
Her experience would also be a major advantage in helping whoever plays alongside her in the absence of Williamson.
Greenwood is most likely on this list to start at the World Cup now that Williamson is out. Whether she starts alongside Bright or someone else remains to be seen.
The Man City player has made 23 appearances for Manchester City this season, and has been part of a Gareth Taylor side going through transition. She’s proved her ability to organise a defence, and is comfortable both on the ball and off it.
Recently, she has played as a left-back for the Lionesses, meaning further shuffling would be required.
Wubben-Moy has spent plenty of time playing with Williamson at Arsenal, and the 24-year-old has certainly proved herself in the WSL.
However, her England career has yet to truly kick on. She was an unused substitute during the Euros campaign and was originally not called up in the Lionesses most recent camp, only coming in once Bright dropped out due to injury. It would be a massive jump to have her start at the World Cup.
Le Tissier is another England defender who is able to play in two positions, which may make her stand out to Wiegman as a versatile option to bring.
For England, she’s played as right-back, but for Manchester United, she’s preferred as a centre-back, where she has been particularly formidable this season, helping her club side lead the WSL table.
Houghton was England’s captain from 2014 until Wiegman’s arrival in 2021. Though she has struggled through injuries, the soon to be 35-year-old still starts and captains Manchester City, which could be a plus given that she has an established partnership with Greenwood.
Despite the player publicly wanting to represent England, Wiegman has opted for others ahead of her due to form, even to go far as saying that her chances of being picked for the upcoming World Cup were ‘not that high’ recently – but that was before Williamson got injured.
Carter is known for putting in solid shifts for defending champions Chelsea, but she is much better suited on the flanks.
Given that Greenwood will likely shift to centre-back, it is expected that Carter will be an option to replace her at left-back rather than Williamson in the middle of the defence. That being said, she spent most of last season at the heart of a back three for Chelsea.
Morgan has only made three appearances for England, so it would be unlikely that she’d start in Australia and New Zealand.
She visibly struggled against Australia in the Lionesses’ most recent friendly, a 2-0 loss.