Fran Merida stars for Arsenal’s bright young things

Goals from Fran Merida and Nicklas Bendtner saw Arsenal edge past Liverpool in an entertaining encounter in the Carling Cup.

Arsene Wenger was reluctant to let Fran Merida go out on loan and the Spanish youngster repaid his manager’s confidence by turning out a magical performance against Liverpool.

Playing as a “half winger” on the left side of the forward three, Merida’s movement was a constant thorn in Liverpool’s backline as he pulled out and dropped into space. And for the opener, he popped up on the right hand side, taking full advantage of Andriy Voronin’s lax pass to powerfully lash home from the edge of the box. Nicklas Bendtner hit the winner five minutes after the restart, nipping the ball away from Skrtel before firing under the roof of the net.

Arsenal’s movement at speed was particularly breathtaking and for the first half hour, Liverpool seemed like they had no answer. A swift attack involving Ramsey, Eduardo and Bendtner saw the Dane fail to provide the final touch to a flowing breakaway. Merida could have got a second towards the end of the first half in an attack which started from Kerrea Gilbert at right back ended with the Spaniard chipping over Diego Cavalieri.

But Liverpool also sought to punish Arsenal for leaving such gaps through their expansive style and when the Gunners did push forward and pressure the defence high, the full backs found space to get up the pitch. And indeed it was Emiliano Insua who found himself outside the box with little to no pressure and the Argentine left back struck a dipping volley over Lucasz Fabianksi. Degen on the other side had similar joy as he got forward with much frequency, creating much danger with his unmarked runs. The wide channels are the areas where the battle is increasingly won and lost and Liverpool’s attacking play certainly owed much to their adventurous full backs.

The way Arsenal coped with the pressure from Liverpool after going in front  showed their real character and Eastmond and Gilbert in particular came out with flying colours considering the pair’s differing situations. As was the case last Carling Cup campaign, the defence was the basis for a strong attacking show and Phillipe Senderos and Mikael Silvestre did to their best to provide a calming assurance to the young custodians in front of them. “I believe that the experience of the two centre-backs was important at vital moments of the game,” said Wenger. “And of course going forward we had some good players as well up front and that made a difference.”

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool: Merida 19, Insua 26, Bendtner 50.

Arsenal (4-1-2-3) Fabianski (7); Gilbert (8), Senderos (7), Silvestre (7), Gibbs (7); Eastmond (8) (Randall); Ramsey (7), Nasri (7); Bendtner (7) (Watt), Eduardo (6), Merida (8)* (Coquelin).
Subs not used: Szczesny, Bartley, Frimpong, Sunu.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1) Cavalieri; Degen (Eccleston), Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Insua; Spearing, Plessis (Aquilani); Kuyt, Voronin, Babel; Ngog (Benayoun).
Subs: Reina, Darby, Dossena, Ayala.

Referee Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)

Arsenal Team Statistics Liverpool
2 Goals 1
1 1st Half Goals 1
4 Shots on Target 4
5 Shots off Target 6
3 Blocked Shots 4
7 Corners 6
10 Fouls 12
2 Offsides 4
0 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
81 Passing Success 74.5
22 Tackles 35
72.7 Tackles Success 65.7
54.2 Possession 45.8
47.4 Territorial Advantage 52.6

24 thoughts on “Fran Merida stars for Arsenal’s bright young things

  1. Fancy resting a player like eboue, when AW has got some better, younger and obviously better skilled talent on the bench and the reserve team to play carling cup football..

    Stop wasting good young players arsene.. use them more often in the first team sqaud.. merida, ramsey, gibbs deserve more of a go.. but u like to persist with useless baggage like eboue.

      1. Eboue is one of the best utility players in the league. He has a confidence problem at time but he is an excellent footballer. There are only two other players in the league who are nearly as versatile

  2. If they would have lost the doomers would have called the head of Wenger and told him that he could not have played those young kids and that he should have played Eboue or Diaby against Liverpool.

    For some it never will be good.

  3. Excellent game all in all.

    In some ways it is such a shame that inevitably some of these players will be leaving as not everyone can get into the Arsenal team.

    I particularly like the look of Merida, and Ramsey hardly gave the ball away, if at all. The range of intelligent passing is really something to admire considering they are ony 19 and 18 respectively.

    Both Eastmond and Gilbert got better as the game went on and Gibbs calm assurance is remarkable even if he has a slight tendency to caught positionally due to his attacking instincts and enthusiasm.

    Overall the team Arsenal fielded coped very well with a quite experienced Liverpool outfit containing Kuyt, Voronin, Babel, Skrtel and Benayoun who came on late.

    The signs are good and Wilshere and Vela, arguably the brightest prospects at the club, didn’t even feature.

    Onwards to the next round.

  4. Hey, did Merida play as a half winger or Nasri? Merida did attack more, but it seemed to come from the center. I think Nasri played as a half winger.

    1. I think they switched later onto the game. Fran played half winger out on the left to start, and Nasri played central. Late in the second half, as Fran lost his legs, Nasri moved up to half winger and Fran played central. Then Fran came off and was replaced by Coq.

      1. Nasri played as part of a central three with Eastmond holding, Ramsey slightly closer while Nasri could get forward and play in ‘between the lines’ (so in theory it could look like a 4-2-3-1). He and Merida were allowed to alternate positions owing much to the fluidity.

  5. I like both Ramsey and Eastmond for their craft and industry but I reckon neither of them would become regular at Arsenal soon for they still show obvious lack of experience in losing the ball at key moments. Merida probably has a better chance than both. In any case, given how we played yesterday it is astonishing to think of who our 3-man (or, eh, 3-boy) midfield are.

    Between Gibbs and Gilbert, I’d say Gibbs is ready, Gilbert is not. The latter is caught out of position too often, leaving Senderos stranded with wingers more than a few time during the game. Gibbs was composed, fierce in tackles and showed up at the right time, right place. I love how he got the corner to kill time – when was the last time Arsenal senior team did it as well as that?

    Nasri impressed me highly – he’s got my vote for MoM. His movement with the ball kept us more balanced against Liverpool’s muscular approach (we had more possession but less field advantage). His tricks are pure joy for the eyes.

    I’m a little bit sorry for the Senderos situation. He’s more than decent enough for a premier league game, as proved yesterday, and he’s been attached to this club for a good bit of time so I don’t want to see him go. On the other hand, if he can’t improve he’ll have no chance to break in the Gallas-Vermaelen partnership. Let’s see how it’ll play out.

    1. PS have gd heading (one of Arsenal weakness) but needs to improve on his speed. wonder y he always play better for his country than club level.
      hope Aw give more chance to nasri, PS, Ramsey, Gibbs, Merida

  6. If compare performance of this game Arsenal vs LFC & Arsenal vs WHU, u can see that this team have hunger to win, PERPHAPS fighting for 1st team places ?? They fight for every ball, good team work.

    Can anyone read AW mind why Diaby is ahead of Merida & Ramsey in team selection ?? even C. Eastmond is better than Eboue in final delivery (that what is needed). S.Nasri is in the thick of action.

    Both full-backs did not supply any crosses, the midfielders & forward did most the penetration work. that must be the way to play…. not over relying on full back to supply crosses.

    If any player like the comfortable seat of the bench, AW should fulfill his desire. hope AW learn & improve in team selection, if any player is not performing, substitute AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. be decisive.

    Better to hold onto the lead, grind a win by an odd goal than find the final ball to kill the game. (Assuming we draw this game – LFC connect the cross towards the end of the game or even lose – ref award penalty for hand ball, we should be proud from this positive performance)

    Mr Aw, will u still persist with Diaby, Eboue….& non-performing “star” in starting 11 ?

  7. Brain, did you read the latest article of ‘the Question’ by Jon Wilson? It is about false nines. Very interesting article. In the end, he mentions that RVP is the falsest nine in the world at the moment. What are your views?

    1. Didn’t I write an article about this when some were questioning the reasoning of playing RVP alone up front? (although admittedly not in the historical detail as Mr. Wilson).

      In the next article I talked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic but I wouldn’t count the Swede exactly as a false nine; maybe an unorthodox striker because he still operates very comfortably as a number nine and doesn’t tend to drop as deep as RVP. Interesting that RVP is becoming more orthodox gradually and not having to play the whole game going away from goal.

      I think it’s a great tactic and needs to be complemented by those playing around him as we are seeing with players like Diaby. It should allow Arshavin to get more involved also and of course meaning more goals all around the pitch. Why? It’s harder to mark and unpredictable but as Mr. Wilson mentions it requires clever and fluid movement.

      1. I think Arsenal can master the system with players like Rosicky and Arshavin. Let us never count out players like Diaby and Eboue. They can make their presence felt in the box with their late running.
        In previous articles, Wilson had said that teams had abandoned the no 9 and played the no 10 as the lone man up front. Now he calls them a false 9.
        Now, Rvp is scoring more and more goals. He does not only drop deep, he moves sideways too, constantly interchanging with the wingers. IMO, his is the most important position at Arsenal.

  8. Interesting to see we switched from our regular system, to a more pragmatic one that entailed direct channel running from Eduardo.

    With a slower centre-back pairing, we seemed more comfortable sitting back, drawing Liverpool out, and using Eduardo’s pace and movement to exploit the space in behind.

    Perhaps this is a system that can be used more often when we are ‘under the cosh’ so to speak.

  9. Brain,
    In my book freedom of speech means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you say that does not insult other people and poison the discussion with pointless profanity. That is, one’s freedom of speech must not obstruct others’.

    As guests of this website we owe it to you for getting our views known to many other guests. We are also thankful that you do not (at least in my case) filter/alter our views without permission even though technically you can.

    In my humble opinion, the person with nickname oz-gooner has abused the common courtesy and trust among owner and visitors of this site with his/her insulting language and content. Such attitudes should not be tolerated. I urge you to consider the situation and take proper action.

    1. The reason I deleted the comments where not because they were offensive as such, but because I want the site to be welcoming to everyone and it was clearly inappopriate. This is the first time I’ve actually deleted and it’s not my intention to continue doing so but in this case it is warranted.

  10. Off topic Brain but the thumbs up are excellent. They seem to allow the silent majority to have a say without repeating what everyone else says and generally seems to show the lack of support for the negative commenting about Wenger his tactics, player selection and the ability of the players.
    all the best Dave

    1. You’re welcome. I was thinking about taking them off before because I felt it may discourage others and make them less confident in displaying their views. Hopefully that’s not the case as there are some really good comments made that you may not get to read other place else on Arsenal before it is hijacked by senseless criticism and profanity.

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