Of the six summer signings made by Milan, there is a sense that Ismael Bennacer will prove to be the most important for coach Marco Giampaolo.
As noted by BBC Sport, it was reported that the Rossoneri landed his signature from Empoli in a deal worth around an initial €16m.
Whether it was through his form for Empoli last season or his displays for Algeria en route to winning the Africa Cup of Nations this past summer, there were early signs that Bennacer would establish himself as a brilliant addition to the starting XI.
Giampaolo opted to ease the 21-year-old into the side with a brief appearance in the defeat to Udinese before then giving him a starting place in the win over Brescia last weekend.
It didn’t take long for him to endear himself to the fans at San Siro, and as seen in the club’s tweet below, he even secured the MVP award in his first full 90-minute appearance for Milan.
While that’s not a bad way to introduce himself, the best thing about Bennacer is that there’s still so much more to come and he fits into the side and Giampaolo’s plans perfectly.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) September 2, 2019
As seen in the highlights package of his performance below, it’s clear that there are real key strengths in both facets of his game.
From a defensive perspective, his awareness, positioning and ability to stay on his toes and win back possession from loose passes or to read the game and intercept enabled him to provide key defensive coverage in front of the backline.
Equally as impressive was his temperament and maturity in carrying out that role, as given his age and inexperience, it’s easy for him to have lapses in concentration or a rush of blood to make the wrong decision. However, he was calm, composed and patient for the most part.
That’s the minimum expectation for a player in his role though, and it’s something that we have had from the likes of Lucas Biglia and Tiemoue Bakayoko previously.
Where Bennacer excels though is what he does with the ball after that. The youngster doesn’t need three or four touches to gain control of the ball and then lay off a simple pass. As seen in the clips below, it’s often one touch to bring it in and then it’s a quick, snappy pass off to a teammate to keep the ball moving and set the tempo of the game.
Ismaël Bennacer Vs Bresciapic.twitter.com/QjRqPrZCks
— BNS Comps (@BnsComps) August 31, 2019
At times, he showed his ability to offer more with efficient passes that break the lines and allow our attacking players to shift the play forward quickly and threaten to create an opportunity.
While it does look relatively simple for the most part, it’s so effective and crucial for our build-up play to have that quick thought process and the quality to execute without slowing everything down.
Admittedly, it was Brescia at home and it was his first start for Milan. Nevertheless, the positive signs are there that Bennacer is going to be a pivotal figure for us and it’s hoped that he can build on this performance and improve and develop his game further moving forward.