Every season without fail, there’s always the rumours and transfer stories relating Cesc Fabregas’ return to Spain. While I’m sure that none of the Arsenal fans would not want to see that day coming in the next 10 years, it is something that is to be expected. For a player of his calibre and his roots in Spain and especially Barcelona, his association with Arsenal will come to an end. I know this, you know this and Wenger himself will no doubt also have realised this already. The question is when.
At the moment, despite losing their hold on 1 of the 4 cups that they won last season, Barcelona are still in a very strong position to retain at least 2 other titles. The midfield in their squad is perhaps one that is most admired in today’s footballing world. In Andreas Iniesta and Xavi, Barcelona have the 2 players that is have few worthy adversaries in the world. While Fabregas is not the same type of player Iniesta is, the former is definitely broken from the same mould as Xavi. The deep-lying playmaker with an immaculate eye for a pass.
Xavi will be 30 this year and with a bit of luck to remain injury free, he would probably last another 3-4 years. That is exactly the same amount of time which I expect Fabregas to remain at Arsenal. By that time Fabregas himself will be 27 years of age and a return to Nou Camp to finish his playing career would definitely be on his mind. If Xavi do retire during that period, Fabregas could very well take over his role in Spain’s national squad as well as Barcelona’s. Which is why the actions from Sunday’s game at Bolton could be a significant moment from an Arsenal perspective.
Fran Merida was on hand to score the deciding goal for Arsenal which puts the match beyond Bolton. From the replay, it was clear for all to see, the excitement and joy that Fabregas felt when celebrating that goal. Of course, Fabregas was elated to have sealed the game but it could also be from seeing a potential successor for him at Arsenal. Both have a very similar background. Whisked away to Arsenal academy at the age of 16 from Barcelona’s famed youth system, both Catalans are the modern type of midfield players that thrives on attacking games.
Before I get any further, I will state this. Both may have the same background and position on the pitch, but are ultimately different types of player. Fabregas, as mentioned before, while Merida is more of an attacking midfielder who plays slightly forward than the former. Merida is more of a Iniesta than Xavi, if you catch my drift. The formation employed by Wenger before this, the 4-4-2, may not have worked for Merida as it is hard to picture him in a central midfield role, playing from box to box. However, with the latest transformation that Wenger had set about, changing the formation to 4-3-3, the midfield role is made for Merida.
With 2 players providing the defensive cover when required, the third midfielder is allowed the license to roam and push further forward. This is the same role that Merida covers with some aplomb for his country in under-age tournaments and matches. The left-footer possesses a neat strike and do get into good positions in the final third of the half. With Aaron Ramsey seemingly more than willing to come deep to pick up the ball, just like Fabregas, the other midfield position would suit Merida nicely. The ability to be the link man between midfield and strikers is very much in Merida’s forte.
It may be too soon to wax lyrical about the other Spaniard midfielder since he cannot continue to show his worth in the immediate time (out for Wednesday’s Bolton game) and has played far too few games to be judged. His contract situation will need to be sorted out sooner rather than later, or it could turn out to be another situation of “what ifs”. Merida himself also needs to be patient and understand that although he needs more playing time now, the time when he gets the oppourtunity may not be that far off.
All good thing will come to an end some day. When a star fades (or in this instance, leaves), another will surely replace it.