The name Fran Merida may be one that may football fans have often heard, yet know little about. The young Spaniard is raved about down at the Emirates and when you watch him play it is easy to see why. The 19 year old is a versatile midfielder, able to play on the left or in the centre. His game bears a striking resemblance to that of Cesc Fabregas and if that’s anything to go by then we can expect big things from the youngster.
Merida is another product of the Barcelona youth system, one that in recent years has also produced the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi. Merida left Spain in September 2005 in a controversial manner. His parents had approached agent Joseba Diaz expressing concerns regarding the volume of young talent at Barcelona. Feeling that he would have a chance of success elsewhere, Diaz alerted several European clubs, one of whom was Arsenal, and a deal was made to bring the youngster to England, a move which looks to be paying dividends.
After briefly featuring in friendlies and Carling Cup ties as a substitute, Merida was allowed to travel back to Spain for a loan spell with Spanish side Real Sociedad and during this period the youngster really developed his game. He enjoyed a successful spell with the club, showcasing his ability as a creative and highly-technical midfielder, claiming 1 goal and 6 assists in his 14 appearances.
Merida’s appearances for Arsenal have been largely limited to the league cup and as a substitute in the Premier League, although he always impresses when given the chance. He has been thrust into the limelight recently after scoring a stunning goal against Liverpool in a 2-1 Carling Cup victory. Merida smashed the ball from the edge of the area, sending a strike off the inside of the post into the corner, leaving keeper Diego Cavalieri with no chance. The goal was just a glimpse of the ability the youngster has in his locker and I have no doubt we will be seeing more of this in the future.
It is fair to say that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is one of the best around when it comes to noticing youth talent, therefore it speaks volumes about Merida’s ability that Wenger has made several flattering comments about the young Spaniard. Wenger has described him as ‘an absolutely amazing player’, stating that the club almost let him go on loan again this year but he had ‘too much quality’, leading us to believe he has a role to play in the Arsenal squad this year.
Despite only scoring the one goal for Arsenal, looking at Merida’s international record will tell you that the midfielder is more than capable of finding the net. Merida took part in the Under 20 World Cup held in Egypt, scoring 3 goals in the first two games, including a brace in a 2-0 victory over a very good Nigerian side. He has an eye for goal that will no doubt improve whilst at Arsenal training with the likes of Robin Van Persie and Andrei Arshavin.
You only have to look at Arsenal’s record and Wenger’s comments alone to guess that Merida is going to be a big talent, yet the young Spaniard’s abilities speak for themselves. Arsenal have a little gem on their hands here and it is not surprising they were quick to deny Atlético Madrid recently when the La Liga side expressed an interest. Expect to see Merida break into the Arsenal team on regular occasions this year, and you never know, he might just be another Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal fans will certainly be hoping so.
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