We’re gunning for you, City!
A SEASON without silverware is simply unthinkable for Arsenal, but goalkeeper Emma Byrne fears her side will not win the Women’s Super League 1 title should they lose to Manchester City tonight.
The Gunners have recovered from a blip in form either side of the World Cup to win their last two league matches and move neck-andneck with the season’s surprise package Sunderland at the top of the table.
But with title rivals Chelsea, Liverpool and the Black Cats all to play in the final weeks of the season, Byrne knows they cannot afford any more slip-ups, starting tonight at Boreham Wood.
“If Man City beat us I don’t think the league title is in reach – we have to win every single game if we want to win the league from here on in,” said the 36-year-old.
“But the last time we played them we beat them 1-0 and I felt like it could have been more, it’s one of those games where you’re quietly confident of winning.
“I always wished that the competition would get better because playing good teams gives me something to do, but now I’d be happy to go back to the way it always was!
“We’ve played Sunderland once and beaten them. I’m not sure how well they’ve been playing against the other big teams but I’m really surprised they’re up there.
“I don’t think they are going to win the league but they are on a run and it’s great to see them come through. You do fear their players, such as Beth Mead, will be snapped up by bigger clubs.”
If the Gunners are to win an astonishing 42nd trophy of their 28-year history then Byrne, who joined back in 2000, believes playing the ‘Barcelona way’ will be the key.
While Chelsea and Manchester City have packed their squads with England stars, Arsenal have kept up with the times too, with new boss Pedro Martinez Losa weaving a touch of Spanish silk into their play since his appointment last September.
The 38-year-old came to prominence by bringing success to Rayo Vallecano, and Republic of Ireland international Byrne, who has more than a century of caps to her name, says his message is being received loud and clear.
“It was always going to be difficult at the start of the season, we didn’t have much time together – with six or seven new faces it was always going to be tough to gel in time,” added Byrne, who is married to former QPR defender Marcus Bignot.
“We struggled a lot with that but Pedro has come in with his coaching philosophy and now we’re getting used to it.
“You can really see that togetherness in the team now, and we’re getting the results.
“Pedro is a typical Spanish manager, he encourages you to play with the ball at your feet that you’d associate with Barcelona.
“It’s the way every team is going now, you can’t be left behind. It’s about building from the back and we’re becoming more and more confident.We have naturally done it that way, but Pedro is adamant about it and we’re now more aware.”
SAFE HANDS: Arsenal’s Emma Byrne is targeting victory against Manchester City tonight and, inset, holds the FA Women’s Super League trophy in 2011 ABOVE: England skipper Steph Houghton celebrates her winner for Manchester City against Chelsea in the FA Women’s Super League two weeks ago