April 26 2003 - remember the date, Gooners?

By Avenell Dave

The chatter after last night’s game said it all.

When we should be talking about a stirring fightback that further proves Arsène Wenger’s assertion that his young team are growing in experience, determination and desire, the focus almost inevitably this morning was on one incident.

Whatever the storm about William Gallas’s tackle on Mark Davies, our number 10 was like a man possessed last night, determined to show that he has matured from the brooding, sulking figure that staged a sit-in at St Andrews a couple of years ago.

Yes, his tackle may have been robust, it may even have been reckless in the cold light of day, but I’d put my house on the fact that he only had one thing on his mind – and that was to win the ball and get the team going after suffering a shocking start to the match.

We don’t tick without Cesc Fabregas firing on all cylinders and how I wish we had a stronger squad with more fit players so we could rotate and rest without necessarily sacrificing results.

But while his impact was superb last night, Gallas was my man of the match, bustling, hustling and chasing down every ball he could.

While I understand Owne Coyle’s frustrations, Wenger called it absolutely right by reminding the media that when Denilson went down against Everton, we came close to conceding a third goal because the visitors played on. Even our own fans did not protest on that occasion.

When we had the chance to win back-to-back titles for the first time in decades in 2003, Bolton basically kicked us out of the title race, with Freddie Ljungberg and Lauren both suffering ankle-ligament damage courtesy of the Sam Allardyce school of football.

Paul Robinson, who also limped off last night and Matt Taylor whose goading of our fans followed swiftly from his assault of Fabregas last Sunday, have maintained Bolton’s overly physical approach and I’m a great believer in karma.

We showed last night that we can battle, that we have the stomach for a fight and that we are in the title race for good.

Six points from two games was the absolute minimum we needed against Bolton and we’ve got it, despite showing in both matches a defensive vulnerability that needs addressing.

Even at 3-2, we didn’t look secure and at times it felt as if we could concede a calamitous third.

There were numerous occasions when we could have taken the sting out of the game with defenders heading it back to Manuel Almunia, but the sad truth is that no one trusts him to take control, to assert himself and to make wise decisions.

Yes, he made one fine save from a Matt Taylor free kick, but when the defence has so little obvious confidence in the goalkeeper, it puts the rest of the side under so much pressure.

But along with Fabregas and Gallas, there were some outstanding performances last night, most notably Thomas Vermaelen and Tomas Rosicky, who showed yet again why, if he could retain his fitness, he is a vital component of our team.

The fact that Aston Villa conceded four goals to Blackburn suggests that we could exploit weaknesses in their defence at the never-easy Villa Park next week, but now is the time to bask in our ascension to the peak.

Whether the Edin Dzeko rumours are true or not, I hope, knowing Wenger’s recent disdain for the FA Cup, that spends some time this week looking for one or two new faces.

Abou Diaby’s injury may keep him out a while and we’re running out of players.

This could be our year, Addicts.