It’s been another underwhelming season on the whole for Milan, but one stand-out bright spot has been the emergence of Ismael Bennacer.
The 22-year-old arrived off the back of being named Player of the Tournament at the Africa Cup of Nations, with BBC Sport noting that we spent £14.5m to sign him from Empoli.
Things didn’t immediately click into place for the Algerian international as he didn’t walk straight into the starting XI under Marco Giampaolo and had an indifferent start to the Serie A campaign.
Benched for four of the opening eight league fixtures, there was a frustrating wait for him to make his presence felt as Lucas Biglia continued to get the nod. Fortunately though, and particularly under Stefano Pioli, Bennacer has come to the fore in the heart of our midfield.
Still room for improvement
Before we look at what he does well, it’s important to note that he still has plenty of improvement and development ahead as there are still flaws to his game.
From the unnecessary bookings to being caught out of position at times which leads to tactical fouls and cautions, his awareness in the defensive phase must get better.
If he can tidy that area of his game up and become a little more accomplished and composed, it will only lead to further praise and recognition of his importance to this current side.
Key part of our future
What the video below crucially demonstrates is Bennacer’s quality both defensively and offensively, as he has been a pivotal figure for Milan in both phases of the game.
His mobility, awareness and tenacity helps provide protection for the backline as he is often breaking up play or putting pressure on the opposition to ensure that we’re a more difficult side to penetrate through the middle.
While he would perhaps flourish in a more flexible and attacking role, he has adapted really well to being the deep-lying midfielder with a defensive responsibility on his shoulders, and his presence to offer a shield in front of the backline is undoubtedly appreciated by his teammates.
Importantly though, that’s not the only influence Bennacer provides as he’s very much a two-way player. His quick feet, speed of thought and passing ability allow him to set the tempo for us, and Milan are undoubtedly a better side when things quicken up and we don’t allow the opposition to settle into a defensive shape.
Whether it’s quick, sharp passing with a high level of intricacy in midfield or longer balls out wide or direct into the feet of the more attacking players, Bennacer has great accuracy with his passing.
On top of that, his ability to show a burst of pace to break from midfield and beat his man to get into space allows him to get out of tight situations. Couple that with his technical skill, and he has proven to be a classy operator in the middle of the pitch for us.
Admittedly, he perhaps does still take questionable risks at times and one sloppy pass can put us in real danger, but his consistency and reliability on the whole has been impressive, particularly considering his inexperience and age.
As he continues to mature, develop and lead in our midfield, there are only good things to come from Bennacer as there should surely be no doubt after his performances this season that he must be a major part of our plans for the future to be successful again.