When Arsene decided not to re-enforce his midfield one of the reasons was the progress made by Arsenal’s other Spanish youngster Fran Merida. Arsenal fans and coaches have been waiting for the youngster to make that final leap to the first team squad, with some coaches believing that he has the ability to be a better player than Cesc.
Fran has been rewarded with a first team squad number and came on for 20 minutes against Portsmouth. Merida was the star of the show creating chance after chance in the recent 4-0 reserve drubbing of Birmingham.
Merida knows he has not made it yet and in an interview to arsenal.com on Tuesday he showed both how excited he is at the prospect of being a first –team squad member but he also acknowledged that he has more work to do before he can claim a regular place.
“When Pat Rice told me I was moving into the first-team dressing room it was a great moment,” the Spaniard told Arsenal.com after starring in the Reserves’ victory over Birmingham on Tuesday night.
“Of course I was always confident, if I thought ‘I can’t do this’ then there’s no point. I always believed I could do it and now I am part of this fantastic team with great players.
“I am very pleased, very happy because it has been three or four seasons. You have to stay patient, I always was and I know I am there now.
“I am just going to work even harder to get my chance. I know the players will help me so I’m looking forward to a fantastic season.”
Fran will play a big part this season in our midfield and perhaps then fans will realise why Wenger believed that he had sufficient players to provide cover in central midfield.
Fran Merida joined Arsenal in the summer of 2006 after an amazing disappearing act! Merida spent over a year away from the Nou Camp in a plan devised by his agent to ensure that he did not sign a new contract with Barcelona.
The coaches at Arsenal were and still are highly impressed by young Spaniard. Merida has gone through the normal Carling Cup route to first team football with three substitute appearances in his first season, followed by a spell on loan at Real Sociedad where he made 14 appearances. This season he has made the bench on several occasions and eventually made two league appearances from the bench against West Brom. and Portsmouth.
Arsene Wenger is a big fan of Merida; he has compared the Spaniard to his compatriot Cesc, which is a great compliment from the boss. When Merida signed a new contract in April 2008, Wenger described Merida as an “absolutely amazing” talent.
“Fran is very technical. He still needs to grow physically but football-wise there is no problem. He is an absolutely amazing player.”
Merida had few opportunities this season in the first team; this was mainly due to our poor form at a vital part of the season which did not allow Wenger the opportunity to blood him earlier. It was surprising that Merida did not go out on loan this season, where he would have learnt more than kicking his heels in the reserves.
There is no doubt that he is an amazing player, but we are so used to seeing youngsters come through the ranks quickly at Arsenal that we get concerned when a player is 19 and has not played over a dozen games for the first team. The plan for Fran must be to accompany the first team on the pre-season tour and then spend next season on loan at a club where he will play. Sending him out on loan and then to have him spend most of the season no playing as happened with Traore once Adams was sacked at Portsmouth will not help the player develop. The loan spell must be in England; the pace is different in Spain and will not acclimatise the player for the Premier League.
Give Merida another two years and we will then be able to admire another midfield wonder.