According to the Mirror, Arsenal are considering the option of bringing Ismael Bennacer back to the club.
The club signed Bennacer from French club Arles-Avignon as an 18-year-old prospect back in 2015, with Arsene Wenger still in charge of the team. However, he failed to impress sufficiently in training and was given only one competitive first-team appearance, and that in the League Cup against Sheffield Wednesday.
The fact that he replaced the injured Theo Walcott who had himself come on as a substitute for the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in a game which ended with a 3-0 defeat and consequent elimination from the competition, speaks volumes not only about the fitness of the two players ahead of him, but also of the lack of trust in Bennacer himself. At the end of the season he was loaned out back to France, to Ligue 2 side Tours. In 2017, he moved to Empoli on a permanent basis.
However, his career then took an upward path. His dynamics and ability to dictate play from deep helped the Italian side earn promotion last year, and he has made 30 Serie A appearances for them this term. He has even clocked up seven games as an Algerian international. His exploits have naturally attracted interest from a number of suitors, but Arsenal apparently have an edge over the competition – the deal which saw him move to Italy had a buy-back clause inserted, which the Gunners now consider activating.
But as if the Europa League quarterfinal wasn’t enough of a contest, Napoli have expressed firm interest of their own in Bennacer, considering the 21-year-old one of the finer prospects in the market. They are willing to offer two players and substantial amount of cash in exchange for the left-footed midfielder.
Situations like this accent the importance of Champions League qualification. Should the player be in a situation where it’s down to him, playing in UEFA’s elite club competition is very likely to affect his decision, and while Napoli have all but secured participation, Arsenal are locked in a fierce battle for the last two spots on that train against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United.