Wednesday July 22 2020
Bennacer so valuable for Milan

Ismael Bennacer is the unsung hero of Stefano Pioli’s Milan, writes Kaustubh Pandey, and deservedly attracting attention all over Europe.

Milan’s recent upsurge in form has succeeded in attracting the attention of many in Europe. The victory over Roberto De Zerbi’s men on Tuesday saw them stretch their unbeaten run to seven wins and two draws since the lockdown. So much has been said of the importance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the goal-scoring form of Ante Rebic and rediscovered Franck Kessie. Yet once again Ismael Bennacer shone, and in a game which could have gone either way, the Algerian provided a huge amount of control to a Milan midfield that really needed it.

One thing that has been common in just about every Milan game post-lockdown is the constant presence of Bennacer. While it is easy to point out his impressive performances in what has been an uplifting period for the Rossoneri, Bennacer is one player who stood out even when Milan weren’t winning games regularly. So much so that he’s now coming across as one of Mian’s best signings in years.

The midfielder was one of the four important players that Empoli sold upon their relegation to Serie B in the summer of 2019. The others happened to be Francesco Caputo, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and another Milan signing in Rade Krunic. While Caputo shines for the Neroverdi and even scored from the spot against Milan and Di Lorenzo has done well for Napoli, Bennacer is someone who has brought a much more prominent impact than the others.

The Algerian is capable of doing a lot of things on the pitch and that was clear at the Mapei Stadium on Tuesday. He won a total of two tackles and had a passing accuracy of 92 percent as well. It was an assured performance on and off the ball. He has the ability to sit deep and recycle possession to the forward players, but he can also carry the ball forward in a progressive manner and dribble it into advanced areas. This makes him the sort of complete midfielder that anyone would love to have in their team. Anyone including Paris Saint-Germain, who are reportedly desperate to get hold of Bennacer.

Very few midfielders in European football have the range of abilities that Bennacer has. In some of the early games for Milan, he didn’t start under Marco Giampaolo, but with time, he managed to become a regular feature of the side in deeper midfield. In Giampaolo’s possession-based system, he came across as the perfect single-pivot who could do everything that the 4-3-1-2 system demanded. On paper, he seemed like an upgrade on a player like Lucas Torreira, who had performed a similar role under Giampaolo at Sampdoria.

What Bennacer has over Torreira though is the excellent ability to carry the ball forward. That makes him a very versatile player who can even be used effectively in other parts of the pitch. Empoli even used him as an advanced midfielder in their promotion campaign to Serie A and when Stefano Pioli used the 4-4-2 around the turn of the year in 2020, Bennacer donned a more box to box role too. It tapped into his strengths perfectly and he could recover the ball and either pass it around or dribble it in the final third as well.

One drawback that he does have is his discipline. The AFCON 2019 Player of the Tournament has been booked 14 times already and he got another silly booking against Sassuolo as well. With the suspension hanging in the crucial game against Atalanta, it is perhaps a reflection of one weakness that he has and something that he can still improve. We might also see just how much he and Theo Hernandez will be missed in that match on Friday.

But overall, the €16m fee that Milan paid for him seemed a bargain even at the time, but is now made ludicrous by his excellent performances, his versatility and immense range of abilities. The former Arsenal man has arguably been Milan’s best player in the campaign largely because of his consistency and the fact that he’s been a regular in that midfield.

In many ways, his regular presence in the heart of the park has led to the re-emergence of Franck Kessie as well. The backline benefits from having a ball-winner like him in deeper midfield. He has provided a balance to the team which they might lack against Atalanta, but something that they’ve always had in the last few games post-lockdown.

With interest in him increasing, PSG now joined by Manchester City, it shows that clubs are now paying the 22-year-old the attention he deserves. And in many ways, he would suit many systems and styles of multiple clubs. As for Milan, they can’t afford to lose him at this point or next season. The man has been the bedrock for their performances and he could lead them towards the light soon.

Have your say...
milan actually recruited well in the summer which makes a change, hopefully this can be replicated

they have talked about rashica, szoboszlai, bakayoko, milenkovic which would be a awesome transfer market.

up front is a bit of a issue jovic sounds like a headcase saying that if milan were able to secure a loan with a option to buy would be worth a punt.

It maybe a summer where signing a quality centre forward proves too much of a challenge due to the amount big clubs who need a decent cf.
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 7:14pm
GK: Donnarumma, Donnarumma, Begovic

RB: EMERSon or ATAL + one of Calabria/Conti, sell the other.

LB: Theo, Rodriguez. Sell Laxalt

CBs: Kjaer, Romagnoli, Gabbia, AJER. Sell Duarte & Mussachio

CMs: Bennacer, Kessie, LOCATELLI or ?? Biglia, Brescianni. Sell Bonaventura, Krunic,

Wingers/CAMs: Calhanoglu, Szoboszlai, Castillejo, DEPAY or THAUVIN. Sell Paqueta (Shame he didn't live up to it)

Forwards: Ibra, Rebic, Leao, JOVIC. Rebic and Leao can also play as wingers if needed.
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 2:35pm

I watched both Holland games live at the nations league and could not believe Dumfries was a professional footballer let alone a full international! His technique was honestly dreadful, he couldn't perform the simplest of passes or crosses and his first touch was abysmal. Yes he's a good athlete but unless he was having a particularly bad couple of games he's nowhere near Milan standard. I have to admit i've never seen him play but heard good things about Atal
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 2:21pm
He Nd Kessie have done an incredible job. It's quite surprising what a right formation does to a team. People thought milan were a joke and now they see that they do have the right players to make the team a force again. Reinforcements for next year, a right back is a must. Creative midfielder a striker and defensive mid and possibly a cb and the will be a force next year. Szoboszlai and gotze/depay. Jovic, Emerson or Dumfries for rb. Extend zlatan and bonaventura.
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 1:45pm
(2/2) Thus from 2022/2023 on, with the right reinforcements, I think Milan could challenge for the scudetto and go deep in the CL. The confirmation of Pioli is very encouraging. The club is screaming for stability and it's a step in the right direction. I'm starting to wonder if Gazidis' days are numbered. It's embarrassing to go through all of that for Rangnick only to do a 180 at the last minute. I wonder if the Rangnick idea was mostly his or mostly Elliott's.
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 1:37pm
@Luca and Milan Fan, I doubt Locatelli would come back unless guaranteed first team football. Kessie is playing very well right now, so can't see him being dropped for Locatelli just because. Assuming Ibra now stays for another season our greatest areas of need are a top RB, a replacement for Jack if he doesn't renew, and general depth. Then, progressively, in 2021 if we qualify for the CL it should be a top replacement for Ibra and a top CB to partner Romagnoli. Finally in 2022 a top RW. (1/2)
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 1:30pm
@ Milan Fan

I really hope Rangnick not coming doesn't mean Milan aren't still going to try and get Szoboszlai. Depay would be great but if they can't get him Thauvin is apparently available on the cheap as he enters the last year of his contract so one of those 2 for the wing, Szoboszlai, Locatelli and a new RB as you say and Milan would have a squad capable of challenging the top 4. That's assuming they keep Theo and Bennacer of course
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 11:34am
Bring Jovic, Depay and Szoboszai, right back and centre middle,
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 11:11am
The double-pivot of Bennacer-Kessie is just magnificent and the real reason of our upturn in form. They can take us far since they're both so young, yet look so experienced. Someone like Locatelli to back them up and we're all set there for years. We have to strengthen our attacking options along with the right-back position.

Szoboszlai-Depay duo could be affordable purchases and game changing for Milan. Add to that a good striker and a right-back (Royal?) And we're gonna be a force.
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 10:39am
He's a real gem of a player, technically brilliant, receives the ball and protects it under pressure and has a wide range of passing. He also has that tenacious streak in him which often leads to bookings but is also an asset as he doesn't get bullied like a Pjanic or Jorginho does. I thought Locatelli was great for Sassuolo as well, if Milan could bring him back and pair him with Bennacer in the double pivot that would be a great platform to control games from.
on the 22nd July, 2020 at 9:23am

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