By Declan Taylor

Fran Merida believes that his loan spell at Real Sociedad last season provided him with a crucial introduction to the rigours of first-team football.

Merida could play in Arsenal’s Carling Cup tie against Wigan tonight as Arsène Wenger looks set to continue his policy of blooding youngsters in the competition, and the Spaniard knows the importance of adjusting to the big stage.

In reserve team football, it is development and not results that is of paramount concern but, thanks to his loan spell, the 18-year-old now understands the pressure of playing for points.

“You need to win every week and there is a pressure from the fans – they get crowds of 25,000 every week,” explained Merida. “The teams are very good and they are all quite close to each other.

“I had to get used to playing to win and only to win but it was a good experience and I really enjoyed it. I was very happy because I know that league. I am Spanish and I follow a lot of football so I knew that the league is a very hard one.”

“I had watched these players on TV and now I was playing with them or against them. It was nice and it helped me massively.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Nov 2008