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AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer admits he felt too much pressure at Arsenal and says he wanted to leave the club to get more playing chances.
The midfielder joined the Gunners at the age of 17 from French side Arles-Avignon in 2005. But Bennacer made just one appearance under Arsene Wenger as he came on as a substitute in the 3-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup.
The Algeria international, who has now established himself as one of the best midfielders in Serie A with AC Milan, claims Arsene Wenger decided to play him out of position in his only game for Arsenal.
But the 22-year-old insists he does not regret his time at Arsenal and only wanted to leave in order to get more first-team opportunities.
‘I arrived in England in July. The first two months I stayed in the hotel because I didn’t want to go and live with a family I didn’t know,’ Bennacer told Sportweek.
‘I was 17, I wasn’t of age and couldn’t live alone, so my sister came to stay with me. Then I was joined by Chaines, with whom I had been engaged since school and who would become my wife in England.
‘In September, finally, I played my first game. In the League Cup, against Sheffield Wednesday. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured, Theo Walcott was brought on in his place and after two minutes he gets injured too, so Wenger throws me on.
‘The problem is that he puts me wide left in the front three, it’s a role I’ve never played before. ‘I felt a crazy pressure on me. I lost a few balls, but I recovered a few.
‘After that I didn’t play anymore, but I have no regrets. I trained with important players like Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla.
‘I still had a four-year contract with Arsenal, but I went where they really wanted me.
‘I didn’t know Empoli but I accepted to go down from the Premier League to the Italian Serie B because that was the club that wanted me most of all.
‘The reason why I went to AC Milan, I chose them for their history, but even more because his project was the best for me.’