By Chris Harris
It's been a while since Faye White experienced the pain of defeat. On Sunday, she was given a stark reminder of how it feels.
Losing Premier League matches has been an alien concept to Arsenal Ladies since October 16, 2003, when they went down at Charlton. But after a record 108 games, Vic Akers' side finally succumbed to Everton at the weekend.
For the first time in a long time, questions are being asked of Arsenal's pre-eminence in the English game. For White, Sunday's setback was a shock to the system but by no means a killer blow.
"It's not a good feeling," she told Arsenal.com.
"I've been trying to recall not just when we've been beaten by that score but when we've been beaten at all. It's phenomenal that we could keep that record going for so long. It's hasn't just happened - every year we've had to build a team and keep strengthening to stay at the top. It has been a close-run thing in some seasons, we have had to really dig deep. But we haven't lost since October 2003 and that shows our success. It's a record to be proud of, but it still hurts.
"Having said that, if we had a choice of which game to lose against Everton it would be the League game, not the FA Cup Semi-Final which we won last week. Now we are still in with a shout of both trophies. We can keep ourselves in with a shout of the title and we believe in our ability."
A domestic treble is still within Arsenal's reach - the League Cup is already in the bag - but it's advantage Everton in the title race now. The Merseysiders trail the champions by six points but have three games in hand. It looks increasingly likely that Arsenal will need to win at Everton in one of their five remaining fixtures to secure a sixth consecutive crown.
But that's exactly how White likes it. Given a choice between a boring league with Arsenal sweeping the board or a thriving competition with the Gunners stretched to the limit, she doesn't hesitate to choose the latter.
"When you achieve things amid healthy competition, it means more," she insisted. "It gives you more incentive to go and get those trophies. I think the women's game would benefit from having a couple of rivalries. Obviously there is Everton but Chelsea and Leeds can also be up there.
"Competition is good for the game. There are probably people out there who want to see someone else win something but we know we can keep the pressure up on Everton and they have to pick up points before they can overtake us. We both have games against teams who are capable of upsetting us so it is going to be an exciting run-in. It changes the mentality of our players because it is seen as a real challenge. We have to get the best out of ourselves.
"I can remember our defeats because they are so rare - they don't blend into one - and you remember them more. We know what it feels like to win and we have had a lot of success, so everyone sits up and takes notice when we don't win. But it happens and it's how you bounce back that counts. We still believe we are a strong team and we believe we can win the League."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 31 Mar 2009