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Fran Merida's loan spell in Spain will help with his footballing education

Anyone who has witnessed teenage Spaniard Fran Merida play regularly for Arsenal's reserves and youth teams will know just what a technically gifted midfielder Arsene Wenger signed when he poached the youngster from Barcelona.

So when he was farmed out on loan to Real Sociedad earlier this month, I was among countless others who were concerned that this might be the beginning of the end of his Arsenal career.

However, Le Gaffer has moved to quell such fears and in an article on the official Arsenal website today, Wenger reveals that the loan spell is just part of the learning process to develop Merida into the finished article.

The midfielder joined the Spanish Segunda Division club last week and will stay until the end of the current campaign, although with manager Chris Coleman resigning today, it'll be interesting to see how often Real Sociedad use Merida.

“He is a great player,” says Wenger of the 17-year-old. “He has a good opportunity to play there and he should be at Sociedad for six months.”

Wenger believes the experience of playing for the promotion-chasing Basque side will give Fran the chance to play competitive football and help him develop his game through the experience.

“At the moment we play the young players so quickly in the Reserve team — at 16 or 17 — that at 18 and 19 there is sometimes no challenge for them anymore,” admits Wenger. “But it is still a little bit too early for them to play in the first team at Arsenal. So there is a little gap period for them.

“We always think about how we can use this period for the benefit for the boy and the club. One of the solutions is to get them into clubs where they can get first-team experience.”

I believe that Merida has the ability to be just as potent a force as his friend and fellow countryman Cesc Fabregas, so I'll be keeping an eye on his progression at Real Sociedad and I promise to keep you informed of how he's doing as the season winds up.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on January 17, 2008 12:30 PM in News| Players
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