Merida earns high marks from Wenger

<strong>ARSENAL (2)</strong> vs <strong>LIVERPOOL (1)</strong><br /><br />ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger cited Fran Merida as the perfect example of his club&rsquo;s philosophy after the young midfielder propelled the Gunners into the Carling Cup last eight.<br /><br />The skilful Spanish 19-year-old set the home side on their way with his first senior goal, a rasping strike that beat Diego Cavalieri at his near post. And although Emiliano Insua&rsquo;s dipping volley brought Liverpool level, the scheming Merida was a constant threat as Nicklas Bendtner settled an end-to-end thriller in Arsenal&rsquo;s favour.<br /><br />&ldquo;He is a quality player and he comes from a very good school,&rdquo; said Wenger. &ldquo;We had some top quality on the pitch in midfield and in that kind of game that&rsquo;s very important. He came to Arsenal at a very young age but our school is in line with the way he was educated and he shows perfectly the way we want to play football.&rdquo;<br /><br />Both sides fielded youthful sides peppered with senior players. Wenger made 11 changes but included first-teamers Bendtner, Eduardo and fit-again Samir Nasri, making his first start of the season. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, employed Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and David Ngog alongside the less familiar Jay Spearing.<br /><br />Ngog, who scored in Sunday&rsquo;s momentous win over Manchester United, made an early impact, back-heeling Philipp Degen in to shoot just wide. But it was the Gunners who broke the deadlock on 18 minutes, youngster Craig Eastmond&rsquo;s tackle falling for Merida to lash home from the edge of the area.<br /><br />The celebrations were shortlived, however, as left-back Insua pounced on a loose ball 30 yards out, strode towards the penalty box and unleashed a ferocious dipping volley that whipped over the jack-knifing Lukasz Fabianski.<br /><br />Merida was unlucky not to reply before half-time after a dazzling counter-attack that swept from right-back to left wing ended in his chip over Cavalieri, which Martin Skrtel headed away from goal.<br /><br />But five minutes after the interval Arsenal did regain the advantage, another breakaway finding Bendtner, who stumbled past Skrtel before rifling into the roof of the net.<br /><br />Benitez threw on &pound;20m summer buy Alberto Aquilani for his injury-delayed debut, and Babel was inches away from meeting Kuyt&rsquo;s goalmouth cross as the visitors chased, but the Gunners held on to go into Saturday&rsquo;s quarter-final draw.