Arsenal have many internationals on their books, but just one of them is from outside the first-team squad, with exciting prospect Ismael Bennacer having made his senior debut for Algeria this week.
The 18-year-old is used to playing on the senior stage. He featured in the first-team for his former club, Arles-Avignon, in the second tier of French football, while he was given his competitive Arsenal debut in challenging circumstances last season as Arsene Wenger’s side were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup.
Usually deployed as a defensive-midfielder, Bennacer is hugely effective at winning the ball back by making precisely timed interceptions, yet he also possesses more creative qualities, with the youngster capable of weaving his way past opponents, while he is an adept passer of the ball.
Bennacer is a key player for Arsenal U23s, with his importance to the side demonstrated by the fact that he has worn the captain’s armband for Steve Gatting’s team in the first few games of the season.
Results have been dismal for the U23s so far, but Bennacer has still showcased his potential and, buoyed by his progress on the international stage, the youngster will now hope to become increasingly involved with the senior set-up at Arsenal.
Achieving that aim won’t be an easy task, with Arsenal having a wealth of midfielders to call upon, but Bennacer is highly regarded by Wenger, who has been impressed by the starlet’s performances in training.
After previously representing France at youth level, Bennacer made the decision to switch his allegiance to Algeria, and that choice has reaped instant benefits with his appearance for the latter nation against Lesotho.
Algeria have secured their place at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and, while Bennacer isn’t guaranteed to be part of his nation’s squad for that tournament, it would be a tremendous experience for him if he was selected.
For now, though, Bennacer is eager to continue working hard for Arsenal at youth level, and the young Gunners will be seeking to register their first victory of the season when they face Derby County away tomorrow night.