Profile: Ismael Bennacer

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Fresh after receiving a call-up to join the Algeria squad ahead of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Gabon, here is a profile of the 19-year-old midfielder and why you should keep an eye on him in future.

Ismael Bennacer’s reputation has been enhanced in recent days with news of a surprise international call-up to join Algeria for the AFCON tournament this month. The competition which starts this weekend, is one where the creative-minded midfielder will be hopeful for some minutes in the absence of Bologna’s Saphir Taider – who has already been capped on 38 occasions for Algeria’s senior side since his debut in 2013.

National team manager Georges Leekens will be grateful for extra midfield cover in-case of injuries, and although it’s unlikely that Bennacer will start matches, this tournament can help kickstart his international career with Algeria.

The only teenager in the senior side, he turned 19 at the start of last month and has already been linked with possible temporary loan moves away from Arsenal as consistent displays suggest he is ahead of team-mates in terms of positional maturity and spatial awareness, two things that are integral for success at a highly-competitive level.

Background, playing style and Algeria debut

Born to an Algerian father and Moroccan mother, he was eligible to continue playing for France but switched allegiances last summer having featured at youth level.

Signed under the noses of Manchester City two seasons ago, Bennacer was initially a creative midfielder operating further up field than he does now.

Instead, he has shown a willingness to play where needed and this season especially under Steve Gatting in the u23s, plays as a defensive-minded midfielder. Occasionally he shows flashes of individual brilliance with an excellent passing range, as well as impressive agility on the ball to mask his diminutive frame, but he’s still a raw talent and has tendencies to drift out of games as well as making needless challenges at times when under pressure.

Having already made his competitive debut – a brief six minute cameo against Lesotho during a qualification fixture in September last year – it’s clear that Bennacer is a player for the future and could be a mainstay in Algeria’s midfield alongside the likes of Schalke’s Nabil Bentaleb for years to come.

This experience will prove beneficial for him going forward and is a reward for his hard work at youth level, which is sure to give him a morale boost once he returns going into the latter stages of the current u23 Premier League campaign.

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