Lachante Paul: Ex-Arsenal wonderkid ready to take WSL by storm

Lachante Paul NXGN GFX
After leaving home at 16, the winger has helped Leicester City win the Women's Championship and now wants to become one of the best in her position

It takes real courage for a young player in the academy of a huge club to decide it is time to move on and get the playing time they feel they deserve.

In some instances, it can be a wild success – just ask former NXGN winner Jadon Sancho. 

Unfortunately, though, there have been plenty of cases over the years that have gone the opposite way.

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Lachante Paul made her leap of faith two years ago, aged 16. The winger had just top-scored in the FA Women’s Super League Academy League, with 15 goals in as many games for Arsenal. She also bagged a brace in their League Cup final win over Manchester United.

But if she was not getting the attention she wanted from the first-team, making just one appearance off the bench in a Continental Cup fixture, Paul's performances were certainly catching the eye elsewhere.

Jonathan Morgan, head coach of Leicester City, watched her shine against the Foxes’ Under-16s and reserves across a two-year period. He was quickly convinced she was something special.

“What I saw was a player that was very misunderstood, a player that had bags of potential, but just needed the right environment to flourish,” he tells Goal.

“Her power, her prowess, her finishing ability, her creativity, her ball control, to me, was fantastic for her age.

"She was by far one of the best in her age group every time I saw her. I just thought that if we could transition her mentally into the women's game, we'd have a gem on our hands.”

In the summer of 2019, Paul packed her bags and, leaving behind her huge family, moved 100 miles north to join Leicester.

It is a switch that has certainly paid off, with Paul having racked up seven goals and three assists in just 13 starts this season to build on a strong first campaign last term.

Her contributions have helped the Foxes secure promotion from the Championship, and now she will finally get a crack at the top-flight football she so craved at Arsenal.

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Given the sacrifice involved in getting to this point, it is an achievement that is particularly sweet for the 18-year-old winger.

“I'm glad I took the risk at such a young age to move from home and join Leicester,” she tells Goal. “I do miss [my family] a lot, but it's following my dream, and if that's what I need to do, then that's what I got to do.”

She is certainly still around her family in spirit, with each and every one of them sporting Leicester shirts with her name on the back, despite their allegiances being split across Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Lachante Paul NXGN GFX

It was through her football-mad father, brother and cousins that Paul first got into the sport, recalling “five-a-side tournaments in the back garden” from her younger days.

Talking through the experiences that have shaped her game, she remembers joining a boys’ team – “you learn the physical side a lot quicker” – and then trialling successfully for the Arsenal academy that would develop her technical ability. Her ball control is a skill that stands out especially when watching her terrorise full-backs.

But another big strength of Paul’s is one that she taught herself.

“From a young age, I was always working on my weaker foot,” she explains.

“I'd go into sessions with it in my mind saying, 'okay, this session I'm only going to shoot with my left foot, I'm only going to do this with my left foot'. It's become natural now.”

Since she joined Leicester, those small refinements have continued with the aid of a coach who has given her the trust and confidence to thrive.

Her work rate has improved, with Morgan believing that has helped the teenager become an "all-round player” this season.

There have been glimpses as to what her future development could be too, in terms of her movement in the box. “I think I can in the future play in more central role,” she adds. “I can see that.”

For now, the focus is on transitioning from one of the best wingers in the Championship into one of the best wingers in the WSL.

With that, there is the hope that England will sit up and take notice, as Paul has never having even won an international call-up at youth level – something that Morgan says has “always baffled” him.

“I think if she keeps mentally maturing the way she is, her football ability is there for everyone to see,” he says. “If she's working hard, I strongly feel she can get all the way to the Lionesses - especially now she's going to the WSL where it'll be harder to ignore her.

“If she does what I think she can do, you won't be able to not see Lachante. She will always score you goals, she will always get you assists and that's exactly what you want from your attacking players.

"I think she can get to the top, to be honest.”