Friday, March 1, 2024

Arsenal fans are ‘one of the main reasons I wanted to stay here’ says Lia Walti

Arsenal midfielder Lia Wälti says the level of support behind the club on the terraces and behind the scenes were two major factors in her decision to sign a new contract in the spring.

The Swiss international captain joined the club from Turbine Potsdam in 2018 but admitted that, at the age of 30, she had to think carefully about extending her deal with Arsenal.

Arsenal are routinely breaking attendance records and have built a vibrant fan culture around games, with tomorrow’s game at Southampton set to break another attendance record for the home team- all five of Arsenal’s away games this season have led to record attendances for the home team.

“The support this season has been incredible and I think we have built something huge with the Arsenal family over the last couple of years,” Wälti tells Arseblog News. “I came here five or six seasons ago and we rarely sold out Meadow Park then. It is incredible how we are selling out every away game too, that shows so much about this club and the support around it and that the club is making all the right steps to let the women’s game grow.”

Wälti, known affectionately as ‘Wally’ to her teammates, says the explosion of support for Arsenal Women recently was a major factor in her decision to extend her contract. “That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to stay here and to be part of the club. You can feel that as a player that women’s football is a high priority here and I am so glad the fans can see that and they want to be there and support us no matter where we play and who we play against.”

Arsenal are the common denominator in the record attendances they have been party to in their away games during this campaign and Wälti says that level of support makes a difference on the field. “To be honest, it does make it feel more like a home game. The game we had in Bristol, all I could hear was the Arsenal fans. They are very loud so even when we have away games, it feels like a home crowd.

“It’s great for the women’s game, our generation was used to playing in front of a couple of hundred people. Now we have big crowds pretty much every weekend and it gives us such a huge boost on the field. It is great to celebrate with the fans when we score and hearing them when they want us to score. It makes it so much more fun.”

During the 2020-21 season, when fans were not allowed in stadiums, Lia was very open at the time that the sterile atmosphere games were played in had an impact on her motivation, a sentiment she repeated today. “We had that big difference during Covid when we had no fans and none of us had that feeling that we have with fans. It felt empty and not as important without them. To have them and it growing so, so much, home and away, it’s so noticeable.”

The player says it has contributed to a family feel around the club which has informed her decision to stay in North London. “I am quite a loyal person to clubs so if I feel at home, then I don’t want to leave. From the first day at Arsenal this felt like a place I could imagine myself for many years.

“When you are at my age there was a decision to be made last season and there were other options but, at the same time, I knew what I have here and I can feel the growth, not just in the league but in the club.

“I can feel new challenges every day with new teammates and this season is probably the perfect example. We have a great battle in midfield with so many different and talented players, so this is something that has challenged me and everyone around me.

“That was one part, at Arsenal I can keep developing my game but the growth of the club and the club’s support of the women’s game and the facilities we have here- you just want to be part of it.

“I didn’t want to miss out on anything here because I think there is so much more potential to reach. We have the right people here at Arsenal to make the steps. The fan base is huge.

“There are other great leagues in Europe and outside Europe that would may be great to play in but at the same time, here we have every weekend, great stadiums, great crowds and this is something we have worked our whole career for and we have it now and nothing can replace that. That made it an easy decision for me because this was what I was always dreaming about as a kid.”

Arsenal play Southampton at St. Mary’s in the Conti Cup on Thursday evening with a 6.30pm kickoff.

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Gunner H

Absolutely one of our key players, whose performance sometimes goes under the radar, but I am sure many of us bloggers / supporters can remember games where Lia was unavailable, and the team performance duly suffered.

Peter Story Teller

Probably the most under-rated midfielder in the world! Never wins any awards or gets much of a mention anywhere because she gets on and does what she tasked to do with without fuss; she makes the job look easy. What makes you realise how good she is are the games where she is missing. Glad we have signed Wally for another couple of years!

sturmunddrang

I remember Emma Hayes gushing about Lia during a Switzerland game at the last World Cup.

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