Cesc Fabregas's name has been synonymous with Arsenal's in recent years. He is undoubtedly their biggest star and the most dynamic player that they have. His ability to see a gap and to pick out a team-mate is now bordering on legendary status.
Couple this with his newly found confidence in front of goal, and you are looking at a player that even Arsene Wenger will find hard to replace.
Fear not, Arsene! You do have an able lieutenant in your midst.
He is Spanish as well, and his name is Fran Merida. So if Fabregas cannot resist the overtures of Barcelona, Fran Merida is ready to step in. If the Arsenal board must accept the millions that Barcelona will throw at them after winning the 2010 Champions League, then Fran Merida is the man that Arsene Wenger can entrust the role of midfield playmaker.
Possessor of a great left foot, excellent passing ability and fantastic technique, he is more Juan Roman Riquelme than Fabregas.
Francisco Merida Perez, aged 19, born in Catalonia, Barcelona, signed professional terms with Arsenal on his 17th birthday. He had a season out on loan to Real Sociedad last year and did extremely well at the Spanish Segunda, scoring one goal and six assists. He would have had a better stint in Spain had Chris Coleman not got the sack as manager.
Fran Merida is now playing for Spain in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Tournament. He has already shown his class and quality, scoring three goals and assisting on one. A champion already at world junior level, he is as prodigious as Fabregas was at his age.
In fact, Fabregas was already thrust into the Premiership at 19 years old. Fran Merida is just as good if not better than Cesc Fabregas at the same age.
Merida can truly be the driving force for Arsenal should Fabregas decide to leave this summer. In order for Fran Merida to make an impact, Arsene Wenger must unleash the midfielder now and allow him time to learn and grow accustomed to the demands of the Premiership. The time is now, Arsene...release the shackles on Fran Merida.