Arsene Wenger coaches some of the best young players in the world.
Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey could arguably fit into that category, but for me, they have not done enough to warrant this tag. There is plenty of promise, and they are close, but they are not there yet.
Arsenal's biggest talent is Fran Merida, a player who has all the talent to surpass his fellow countryman, Cesc Fabregas. Ironically, Fabregas was able to break into the first team due to injuries and departures.
When Fabregas got injured against Liverpool, I believed Merida would break into the first team.
I have had the privilege of watching Merida live twice, in a reserve game against Totenham at Underhill and in a Carling cup game against Sheffield United at the Emirates. The performance against Totenham reserves was breathtaking—the free kick was magnificent. The performance against Sheffield United was just as good, but the free kick was just magical.
To create a moment of brilliance in a North London Derby demonstrates how special Merida can become.
Merida has everything to be a future Ballon d'Or winner: fantastic technique, uncanny vision, unbelievable passing accuracy, an astonishing left foot, and high intelligence. He leads his team through his playing ability, and he is the focal point when he plays, such as Spain's European Under-17 triumph in 2007.
It is hard to compare Merida to one player, but watching live performances allows you to see what a player does off the ball, and he makes and creates space for his team mates.
I would say Merida is a cross between Iniesta and Fabregas. I know this is a bold comparison to make for a player who is yet to make his first Premier League start, but from the two matches I attended, the ingredients are there to live up to this comparison.
To the title, it is now do or die for Merida. He has been at Arsenal since 2005 and signed professional terms in 2007. He is 19, so one would think he has time.
But time is running out, as Wilshere (17) and Ramsey (18) are in the first team and play in Merida's position (centre midfield).
Merida's salvation comes in the form of the lefthand side of midfield, where he also excels. With Samir Nasri injured and Rosicky suffering a fresh setback, there is an opportunity for Merida to stake his claim for the first team.
Arshavin will start, but Wenger will be reluctant to burn out the dynamic Russian, so Merida may get his chance. And if he does, he must take it.
The 2008-2009 season was a disappointing one for the Arsenal first team, with only a few highlights. And in this previous season, Merida seemed to stall in his development.
Merida is better player than Wilshere, Ramsey, and Denilson, but injuries and a lack of confidence have put the aforementioned trio in front in the pecking order.
If Merida gets his chance to play in the Premier League, FA Cup, or Champions League this season, it is so important that he takes it, because it will be very difficult to get another opportunity when Arsenal is producing young starlets such as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
This may sound extreme, but if Merida ruins this opportunity, he may stay in the reserves for another season, and ultimately move on due to his inability to break into the first team. This would be a great disappointment—one of which I hope never comes to fruition.
Wenger has worked very hard to sign Merida, beating off competition from AC Milan and Real Madrid. I would love to see Merida on the bench come August 15 at Goodison Park, instead of suffocating in the reserves as he did last season.
Wenger has described Merida as an amazing player. He must give Merida the chance to show his unquestionable ability.
By the end of the season, I hope to see Fran Merida as the Breakout Player of the Year, which will cement his place in Arsenal history.
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