They messed with his head: two reasons Merida should stay at Arsenal.

It seems like Young Guns has an inside source at Arsenal, as in Arsene Wenger himself.  So I’m going to assume Merida is in fact out the door.  GOA actually called this when the first reports surfaced.  Atletico Madrid (AM) had all the right incentives to dislodge rational thought for the young man.  In the end, the Club will be okay with Merida.  I think we would have been better with him, but Merida’s career on the other hand may begin to plateau.

It’s simple really, Merida needs to play.  Everyone agrees on that.  Had Arsenal stayed in the Carling Cup, things might have been different.  But we’re out and his playing time is down.  AM offers him the chance to play first team football in La Liga.  On paper, this is fantastic.  Top league play with the third major club in Spain.  As icing on the cake, Merida gets to return home and he can even make a push for the national team.  Unfortunately, his advisors forgot two points.

One.  AM is a horribly run team.  Although they are the third biggest club in Espana, they operate more like a debacle.  For a club with that much money and following, their lack of consistency is a terrible joke in Spain.  Anyone familiar with AM knows about their lack of defense and up and down play.  There is a reason Torres ran out of there and el Kun is gone this summer.  But the real problem is the club’s management.  It’s horrendous.  Merida has no idea what’s in store for him.  Everything he’s used to at the Emirates, quality of organization, management, operation, consistency, culture challenging for trophies, all of it, gone.  Worse, while he’ll be able to play, AM and the media will have no patience for him.  He’s going to be seen as the savior of the team.  A pressure that sounds well and good, until things go bad, which with AM they will.  Why?  Because their management is horrible.  Arsene has protected Merida and developed him; and, he knows the amount of pressure that will come once Merida is ready for first team action.  And that takes us to the second point.

Two.  Merida is not ready yet.  Merida is a fantastic player with all the skills.  But he hasn’t developed them sufficiently enough to play consistently in the first XI.  Arsene has clearly asked him to play somewhat outside of his area of preference, but he’s done so because those are the areas Merida needs to develop to fill his potential.  Henry, Fab and now Song and Ramsey are great examples of players that have followed Arsene’s instructions and discovered that superstar quality.  All were top players before Arsene, but Arsene forced the players to expand their footballing mind by pushing them in areas of the pitch they wouldn’t otherwise have gone.  Henry forced to play on the left; Fab made to play box-to-box; Song set as a DM; and, now, Ramsey forced to play upfront to sharpen his offensive instincts.  In each case, Arsene saw an area lacking and honed it.  Mostly by forcing the player to play against their instincts in order to broaden their instincts.  AM will not do this for Merida.  I’m sure he’ll play well, but because he will need to succeed immediately, he’ll be forced to specialize too quickly.  Remember, he’s only 19!

Granted there are a lot of (young) midfielders cluttering the Arsenal side right now.  So I can understand Merida’s concern.  Song owns a position at 22, Denilson is Mr. Dependable at 22, Diaby has come storming back at 23, Ramsey is asserting himself at 19, and of course we have King Fab at 22, with Rosicky and Nasri, floating between the forward and midfielder positions.  On top of all that, our Reserves are stacked as well.  But still, Merida was being given places on the first team bench and starts in first league games.  Now, Arsene is likely to drop him down the pecking order.  Why waste time on him?

One more year with us and Merida would have been cracking the First XI.  Two years and he would have been raising all kinds of questions for the Spanish national team for 2014.  Hence the two year contract on offer.  Arsene didn’t mess this up; he made Merida the best contract offer.  Two years to continue development, then both sides get to reassess.  And who knows what will happen to the team in the meantime.  Arsene seemed pretty clear that he saw Ramsey and Merida as his future midfield for a long time.  This implies he might have though Fab was on his way out or Arsene planned on selling Fab; £50m would be difficult to turn down.  In that case, Merida was the anointed successor.

In any case, there is no reason to wish him ill.  But I fear the decision is the wrong one for him, at least on paper.  There might have been more behind the scenes.  In any case, we’ll know the answers soon, but I think Merida made a mistake and hope he doesn’t turn out to be another Reyes.  Fab stayed and he turned out okay.

-the student


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