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This was the best thing that could have happened to Fran and Jack.

By Walter Broeckx

Great was my expectation when I saw the names of Fran Merida and Jack Wilshere on the team sheet. I have seen them play a few games in the Carling Cup, the Emirates Cup, in the reserves and even in the Champions League.

When they play in the Emirates cup, which after all is just a friendly like all the other in preparation of the league, they play at home and the pressure is not that big. When they play in the Champions League they normally are surrounded with other seasoned youngsters or they play in the Carling Cup team when nothing matters any more.

Playing in reserves is not the same thing as playing in the first team. Playing at Underhill is not the same as playing in front of a hostile crowd at Upton park.

When these young players go out to play in the Carling cup there is a little bit more pressure. But at the end of the day Arsenal doesn’t really care for that cup and it is considered as a training ground so that these kids can get used to playing for big crowds and against bigger and stronger opponents.

So there is pressure but no one will get shot if they are out of that competition. It just is a competition in which younger players can show them selves and let us see what the future can bring for The Arsenal.

So in these games Jack and Fran really played some good football and show us bits of their talent. I admit that I have high hopes for those 2 in the future. I think that Jack could be a kind of Dennis Bergkamp player and Fran looks like a playmaker in the making. Both have excellent technique and skills, good vision, a good ability to dribble and they can each add something to the team.

So high expectations from my part and… it didn’t work out for them at the day. Playing in the FA Cup is a next step for those youngsters. The FA Cup is pressure. No team really likes to go out and not at this early stage. The fans from both teams are up for it so you really get a tough game to play no matter who the opponent may be. The players will fight till the last second for every ball. It will be hard work.

So with over an hour gone Jack and Fran left the field with Arsenal 1-0 down. And neither had produced much.

Jack had some good moments, some nice ideas but it just didn’t work out. Fran had some good things to show in the beginning but the further the game went on the worse he began to play. At the end almost every pass went lost, corners were badly delivered. It was almost  turning in to a nightmare. I had visions of Eboue last season.

Diaby and Nasri came on and despite their young age, they know what it’s all about. They have been there and they took over and from that moment on you could feel that the game had turned in our favour.  We  had some good assists from Vela and a very strong finish from Ramsey, plus  and the best of headers a centre forward can deliver from Eduardo to turn things around. But I really think that we could have scored 5 or 6 goals from the moment Diaby and Nasri came on.

But what will this do to Jack and Fran ? I think it could be the best thing that happened to them. If we had won by a large score they could have thought : “hey this is easy.” And next time around they would have walked on the field thinking that it will be another walk in the park.

No I think they will be aware of the difficulty they face in such games. And I am sure that Arsène Wenger will have some fatherly words with the two players.

I think that he will say to Fran that if things don’t work out he has to play some easy balls instead of trying to do the difficult passes all the time.  In this game Fran was trying so hard to deliver the killer ball that at the end he even couldn’t make the simplest of passes because his confidence had gone after all those missed passes.

I think he will tell Jack that he doesn’t have to dribble all 11 players before releasing the ball.  Dribble and then pass it to a team mate and if that works out he can try more. He doesn’t have to produce some kind of magic every time he touches the ball.

I ‘m not going to slaughter those two youngsters for this game. They have the potential to become great players but they still have a lot to learn. And the only way they can learn this is by playing in those games. Yes it can cost us at times but that is one of the difficulties of being a manager. Bring the young players and have the risk that they make mistakes or not playing them and be sure that they will learn nothing.

All our older youngsters have had such games and some of them were written of after one such game – as with Song. Even last year he was written off by some and now those same people  demand Wenger to buy at least 2 backup players for the month Song is going away for the African Nations Cup.

So let us just be patient and give them another few games and I am sure that they will come good and deliver what Wenger has seen in them.

After all will we take the risk of losing another Song ?

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40 comments to This was the best thing that could have happened to Fran and Jack.

  • Hartwick89

    Walter,

    Good perspective on the training and learning of a young footballer. It is definatley helpful for fans to understand these steps. Also, as a matter of steps; it wasn’t that long ago when Ramsay played against Cardiff and played to be nice lackluster. And, now he has scored in back to back games. So these methods do work and will work for these two youngsters…As far as confidence goes well Arsene has methods for that too.

  • Samuel

    Merida and Wilshere seem to get stage fright at decision making time so how much longer before they stop trying so hard and start playing naturally otherwise the pressure of trying to prove themselves will inhibit their abilities .

  • FunGunner

    Good perspective, Walter.

  • Paul C.

    Why would anyone worry? They are teenagers. Don’t people remember what Tony Adams was like as a teenager? God, he was a donkey!!!! Thierry Henry was all pace and inconsistency and gangly legs and mistakes as a teenager. Steve Gerrard couldnt stay fit for 2 games in a row as a teenager. 95% of professional players dont even get games at the very highest level until they are 20 or more.

    When guys like Aaron Ramsey perform brilliantly as teenagers THAT is amazing. Rooney and Owen were amazing as teenagers. But normally kids are poor as teenagers. They need time to grow. You have to give them games, just as Fergie needs to give Welbeck and Obertan games even though they stink up the place. It is only through failure that young players learn.

  • Damn_Gallas

    Well said sir!!

    We need to give wilshere and merida time.. Though they have the talent, they still do need time. I would say that at the age of 19-21, would be when they will be fully ready.

    Only a handful few would be able to play like a professional at less than 18 years old. Not everyone is a Lionel Messi or Cesc Fabregas.

    They need more time and more experience.

    I would say that going out on loan to a championship side or another premier league team, would be the final part of their learning curve. When they get exposed to the toughness and urgency of the high tempo english game, then they will learn to pass faster, make decisions faster, dribble less etc…

    Therefore, Wenger, please send these 2 out on loan. They will be ready in a season or 2.

  • Abhishek

    Is it just me or are there so many people who agree with all the articles that are written over here. (except for some articles of Tony where I dont Understand the humour).

  • Abhishek – I think there is strong agreement here, but that is because the site overtly states that it is pro-Wenger, and apart from when I am writing humour that no one understands, all of us who write here regularly are pro-Wenger.

    The site was set up deliberately in this way to counter the dominance (as I saw it at the time) of the anti-Wengerian writers.

    So generally speaking someone who was not fully supportive of Wenger would have many other sites to go to, and would get a warmer reception there than here.

  • Lhanre

    After reading that piece by Wenger on decision making on the pitch and green lights, I see myself looking out for all the green lights open for an arsenal player with the ball. When Nasri and Diaby got on, it was amazing to see all the green lights they turned on going forwards! It was a beauty of a match.

  • Josh

    Fantastic. This site is fast becoming my favourate.
    Elegent and intelligently written and level headed which is far better than most other Arsenal blogs I have read.
    Too much focus on who/why we do or do not buy players and of course persecution of a man who has performed miracles and any club in the world would be proud to have as manager. Please find me another who has produced the talent we have without the easy big signings not to mention set up one of the best training facilities in the world, oh and the little matter of moving stadium yet still retaining and playing Champions League football throughout.
    I’m as hungry as anyone for trophies but we as Arsenal fans sometimes lack vision, as the future looks spectacular in my opinion.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  • Jonny

    The learning curve is a steep one but tbothe these players have an abundance of talent. they will learn from their mistakes.

    As for Fran though it is hard to imagine him remaining at the club – plenty of clubs will fancy him and he will be free to negotiate a hefty salary as, unless Wenger can persuade him otherwise, he will be on a free come the summer.

    That would be a great pity and a poor return for a player we have fostered and put much energy into nurturing.

    Perhaps Wenger will look to sell him now or use him as makeweight rather than lose him for nothing? Tricky.

  • Bootoomee

    Tony,

    Perfect answer for Abhishek. We all agree with posts on this site because we are all here to do the same thing: SUPPORT OUR TEAM! One thing that you have aplenty on the Internet is choice. If I visit a site once or twice and notice that all the writer cares about is their own pride which they get at the expense of belittling others, then I never go back there; I’m talking about pompous but faceless bloggers like Le Grove and ANR. If these guys are so great and they “know it all”, they should just get a coaching licence and show what they can do.

    Untold Arsenal on the other hand is where Arsenal fans come to celebrate good times and cheer each other up when things are not so rosy. As I’ve always told my D&G pals, our only job as fans is to SUPPORT our team. The nonsense about suggesting (at times even insisting) that certain players be dropped/sold off and certain ones be acquired by “know it all” but faceless and voiceless bloggers/fans is nothing but pure grandstanding for getting virtual blowjob from fellow D&G commenters.

    I feel good about reading and commenting on this site because all it stands for is what I believe in: SUPPORTING MY TEAM AND MANAGER ALL THE TIME!

  • IndianGooner

    Walter, nice article.. And as Jonny puts it, its a steep learnin curve for both of them.. Ramsey, Denilson, Diaby & Song were on this d season before last and the last season..

    I just Merida sees the bigger picture and signs a new deal. And on this topic, its good to see Rosicky signing a new contract. I was worried whether his contract would be extended given his injuries over the last couple of seasons but now it seems He is still in Wenger’s plans!!! Hope Gallas signs a new one soon…

  • fredi

    brilliant article walter. in addition to what you have said, i believe this experience will ground franny and jack, with the media hype and unwarranted overtures from other teams, its so easy for the youngsters to get carried away, they stil have a lot to learn

  • redjim

    I hate to burst the optimistic future bubble going on here re: Fran Merida but the simple fact is he’s had months to sign that contract….and hasn’t…
    So it really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference how much fatherly advice he might get from Arsene because I’d almost bet my flat and its entire contents on the fact that he’s sees his immediate future back in Spain……and come this summer will simply leave on a Bosman thus making pointless the belated £2M transfer ‘fine’ paid and the three years spent developing him.

    I don’t wish this to be true…….I just believe it is.

  • Redjim you can of course have any opinion you like, and you can express it here. But it would be good to know more about why you hold that view.

    Here’s the last thing the Arsenal site said on the matter…

    Arsène Wenger has revealed Fran Merida has verbally agreed a new contract at Arsenal despite other clubs trying to “destabilise” him.

    Speaking after scoring in the Gunners’ Carling Cup win over Liverpool, the 19-year-old said he was hopeful of securing a new contract at the Club and Wenger has now confirmed that deal is ready to be signed.

    But…

    “Some clubs are doing work behind our back to destabilise him,” said Wenger. “We cannot stop them but it is a fact.”

    That’s the full story – on the plus side he has agreed the deal, on the minus side the agent is probably doing his usual agent stuff. I don’t really think that there is much evidence to push it one way or the other. You could also argue that because his performance against WHU wasn’t brilliant his attractiveness to other clubs has declined.

    It seems to me that taking into account all the facts the balanced view is, “could go either way”.

  • LRV

    Very good view, Walter. Without mistakes and a bit of pressure, no one actually learns. The best of leaners are those who are not afraid to slip-up, and are quite happy to take corrections when they do.

    Fran and Jack could not have been in better hands.

  • diceman1984

    Song and Diaby are the living proof of hard work and patience. It’s also a proof that the manager see them everyday while we don’t. It’s also a proof that it’s why the manager got paid to do the job.

    Jack and Fran are, like LRV said, being taken care by the best manager they could wish for.

    They will come to be top players, like many others (who stayed or pissed off) who got there from being nurtured by Arsene Wenger.

    PS: Rambo is improving so fast it’s scary to think we have him and Cesc in the same squad. But of course Wenger has nothing to do with that…..

  • Paul C.

    I actually dont see much of a future for Merida at the club. I think he would have to have regular first team football to stay and I just dont see that he is going to break into a midfield rotation that seems to get deeper with every passing month. In “midfield” he is competing against Song, Diaby, Cesc, Denilson, Ramsey, Coquelin, Eastmond, Wilshire, Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott, Rosicky, Emmanuel-Thomas, and soon Lansbury (who has a terrific loan spell at Watford)and Nordveidt (also having a terrfic loan spell in Germany). That is some serious competition.

    Merida isnt Cesc. He is nowhere near that level. He has the talent to be a very good player but I think the only way he is going to get starting 1st team football is away from Arsenal. I am sure AW would love him to sign a new contract and therefore set up an eventual transfer fee but if I was Fran there is no way I would sign a new contract until I saw what interest was out there, and that won’t happen until the summer. Gradually players and agents are going to realise that the Bosman ruling gave them ALL the power and that American style free agency is a far better way for players to get rich than seeing clubs exchange millions of pounds between bank accounts.

  • jazbo

    Indeed a good game for both Fran and Jack, now they both are aware after watching how Nasri and Diaby changed the game after they came on, how far they still have to go be be on a par with the first teamers around them, better still was the stark way in which those naysayers calling for Eboue to be got rid of have seen just how far young Jack has to go before he can push for a regluar spot in the team, hopefully they will all now leave the boy alone to develop along the path that Arsene has set out for him without all the hype and expectation from those who should know better.
    As for situation with Fran, if he choses to leave and not sign a new contract like Flamini last season, it will be a loss but not one that will hurt the club afterall we have Lansbury and JET just waiting for the chance to show what they can do and remember these boys are both high quality and have experience of playing in the lower leagues already.

  • walter

    I personally would find it a loss for Arsenal if Merida would leave as I think he can be a good team player in the future.
    But that is live in a football club at the top. You simply can not hold on to all the players you have.
    I could understand his reasons if he would go back to Spain even to play for a smaller team in the SPL. Maybe he thinks he could get more opportunities over there to play in the first team.
    But if he is a smart boy he may look around him and see that if you leave Arsenal too soon you could lose everything in time.

  • Getty

    Walter, great recap! After the game I had the same feeling about Fran. He has been on loan before and probably was hoping to break into the first team sooner rather than later and he hasn’t. I wish he stays as he really is a great talent. But agents make money during transfers and you can imagine the pressure he is under. So, as Tony mentioned it could go ether way. Jack probably go on loan and he obvously open to that as he needs games to keep developing. That kid is a real wizard and I have a feeling that in a couple of years he may end up being a regular. There was nothing more to read from the game against WHU as far as I’m concerned.

  • jbh

    A few weeks back Merida was a guest pundit on the Sky Spanish La Liga programme with Guillem Belague. Very level headed and quite impressive English from the young man. He was very supportive of Arsenal in his comments as well (as expected). After the programme a couple of days later Belague on his website had a comment about Merida effectively stating that he felt Merida would re-sign with Arsenal and he also stated that he felt that would be best for him. He’d clearly been talking to him. I would expect Merida is merely testing the water to see if there is any amazing interest in him from some of the top clubs other than Arsenal. Or is hoping for improved terms (more pay or shorter contract).
    You need to remember that AW has said on more than one occasion that Merida is an amazing player. And he rarely does that.
    Not easy to predict the future for a 19 yr old, but he is clearly highly rated.

  • Arsesession

    Walter – mature outlook!

    I did not see or listen to the match, only read reviews from various sources.

    I was only wondering how the play of Eduardo, Ramsey, and Vela were impacted by the insertion of Diaby and Nasri?

    Vela, Wilshere, and Merida have seen very little 1st team play. To toss all three into the line up at one time, then add to that list, Rambo, and you have a predictable outcome. If you want to give Merida (or Jack) a chance to shine, place more experienced support around him.

    Look at how Cesc was brought along – the line ups were not cluttered with 18-19-20 yr olds!

  • walter

    Arsesession, you are right.
    If you look at the starting line up we had a lot of players that have not been playing that much. Wilshere and Vela hardly played in the first team so far. Eduardo a little bit more but he was struggling a bit the last weeks and needs the games to get better. So the front line without that much game time.
    In the middle Song was the only real first choice. Ramsey is very close to the first team (at the age of just 19!!) and Merida hardly played this year. If you also take Silvestre in account who hardly played this year you could say we lacked some experience at the start. The fact that Wenger included some players like Nasri and Diaby on the bench indicates that Wenger might have expected it could happen like it did.
    I’m sure that if we would play them more and start with that team in one or 2 years we would play them off the field like we did when Diaby and Nasri came on the field.

  • Cape Gooner

    Walter and posters. You have said it all, and got it right. I have nothing to add. (Don’t tell my wife!)

  • TheSKAGooner

    Good stuff, Walter.

    Regarding Merida though, IMScouting reported a short wile ago that he’s agreed terms with Atletico Madrid and will join up with them from the beginning of next season. It’s a tough loss, especially on a free transfer (he was to have been out of contract with us at the end of this season), but with the likes of Ramsey coming on so strong and the host of other mids currently on the squad, one can’t help but understand his motivation to look elsewhere for opportunities.

    We should all wish Fran well with his new side.

  • tim

    TheSKAGooner, let’s hope the report about merida is untrue, as is the one about vieira going to man city…

    doesn’t surprise me a bit, though, if true. it’s tough to break into the side for this generation with all the young talent coming through. it would be the same reason he left barca in the first place.

    a great team and a great academy produces tons and tons of stressful competition. it’s for the overall benefit of the team, but individually it must be pretty hard, i’d imagine. it must be especially tough for merida, considering the example of cesc before him. if you have agents, family, and media outlets whispering into your ear that you are the next fabregas, but that you have to leave to get a chance to prove yourself, well, i can completely see how he would tempted to leave. it’s too bad if so, though.

    as for the other rumored transfer, all i have to say is: f^&k i hate man city.

  • Gf60

    Well reasoned Walter. It’s very true that had it been a walkover neither Fran nor Jack would have learned a great deal. The old saying that you only learn from the scars on your back is very true. Equally, if they looked at the game objectively after they were substituted, they would have appreciated the difference that Abou and Sami made. Hopefully it was a great learning curve for both of them.

  • TheSKAGooner

    @ Tim – I think Merida’s link to Atletico is pretty solid. AS, the Spanish paper usually trumpeting Cesc’s imminent departure for Barca, seem to have a fair bit of detail on the Merida deal, including the length of the contract. We actually agreed terms on a new deal with Merida earlier this fall, but he refused to sign the contract. I think that was a sure sign that he was biding his time to see how his playing time shaped up this season and to explore what else would be out there should he decide to leave.

  • tim

    @The SKAGooner– the more i think about it, merida waiting and not-signing the new contract is a big slap in the face for arsenal. he could’ve signed it, and still begged for a way out if he lacked playing time down the road…obviously it would make it harder for him to move, but i’d imagine he’d find a way like so many players throughout the world have before…arsenal paid quite a bit to get him, and there was that lawsuit, and then all that time spent on him in training…

    the respectable thing would’ve been to sign the contract. but in this day and age w/ man city and chelsea, i guess there’s no such thing.

  • I have no special knowledge on this, but I wonder, what was the point of playing Merida in the Cup game if he is already on his way to Spain? If we were looking to give experience to a young player why not put someone else in? It is not as if we are short of youngsters coming through.

  • tim

    tony, let’s hope your logic is true. we just have to wait to hear it from either wenger or merida themselves…

  • If Merida has indeed signed for Athletico, its a shame but keeping things in perspective, we have a lot of very young, very promising talent at the club, even outside of the first team, so his loss is hardly likely to be catastrophic.

  • Paul C.

    Perhaps playing Merida in the Cup was a final attempt to keep him?

    People have to get over this “players not signing a new contract and leaving for a free transfer is a slap in the face for our club” thing because it is the way the game is going. The Bosman ruling changed things but agents and players have just been too stupid to realise it. Players are leaving money on the table and when they realise it transfer fees will stop being paid.

    Take Ronaldo as an example. Real Madrid were willing to pay 90million to Utd for Ronaldo. Had Ronaldo not signed a contract extension last summer (after Utd’s European Cup win) then he would have been out of contract next summer and could have left Utd on a free. He could have asked Real Madrid to pay him that 90million they were willing to pay Utd as an addition to his wages instead. Ronaldo left 90million on the table. To me, he and his agent are idiots.

    Same with Merida, if he had signed a new contract then Atletico would have had to pay a transfer fee. Instead he can get that money as wages.

    It is the smart thing to do. Once all players realise this then transfer fees will dissapear.

  • Arsesession

    Walter – thanks for your reply above.

    again – good commentary!

  • jazbo

    The departure (if it goes ahead) of Fran will not hurt the club as a said before, because we do have an over abundance of talented players who can play in the centre of the park, Fran was not a DM or an attacking midfielder getting into the box like Cesc, he was a creative player with an eye for the killer pass, but unfortunately in the EPL you need a lot more than that to make it, you have to be strong and have a great engine in the middle of the park, sadley Fran was not that kind of player, but I do wish him well if he leaves and will look foreward to seeing his games for Athletco Madrid on the box.
    Time now for Jet, Lansbury and Coqulin to step up and show what they can do.

  • tim

    @Paul C.– you make a good point. merida letting his contract run out would be in his best interests (money wise, at least).

    but the “rational”, self-interested thing-to-do for merida is still a slap in the face to arsenal. because of all the time, effort, and yes, money, spent on obtaining and then nurturing his talent.

    still, as many have commented above, it’s not that big of a loss, if true. arsene has done a remarkable job of securing his team for the long haul (securing players who all could have, like merida, let their contract run out and then move elsewhere for much higher wages and greater playing time).

  • Hartwick89

    @Tim & Paul C.-

    Again it is a shame. As my poster of Jose Antonio Reyes in his Arsenal #19 sits in my basement, and Hleb, and Flamini? What could have been!

  • Mark

    According to one source within the club, Merida left because he found the anti-Arsenal bias of the English football establishment and media impossible to live with.

    A good source informed me:

    “He couldn’t hack it, the whole two-faced rottenness of the system, the bitching carping media, the one Law for the establishment boys, another Law for the others, the smarmy double standards, the lack of protection for foreign players from English referees”.

    A player inside the camp told me:

    “The attempted decapitation of Abou by John Smith just made Fran snap; he thought ‘What’s the point?’ I’ll ply my trade where I can get proper protection whether or not I’m a foreigner”

    He also disclosed to me:

    ” Fran would rather play in Italy or Spain. There everyone knows that bribes and backhanders are the norm. Nobody pretends they don’t happen……in England you all stuff your faces, and then wipe your mouths as if you were little angels.”

  • tim

    @mark — “in England you all stuff your faces, and then wipe your mouths as if you were little angels.” nice. just like in the U.S.