I’ve got a lot of complaints about Everton these days.
The gritty, gutsy mid-week win over Huddersfield helped to alleviate — or at least temporarily relegate — some of them, but yesterday’s transfer deadline brought back to the surface one of my more obscure complaints.
Late in the day, the Toffees quietly moved Beni Baningime to Wigan Athletic on loan for the rest of the season, assuring the young midfielder will be in the Championship until the summer.
Baningime, 20, featured briefly last season under David Unsworth, after starring for the club’s youth side in Premier League 2. Once Sam Allardyce took over, the youngster was predictably buried in the bench and youth side once more, picking up just a couple of short, odd substitute’s appearances before the season concluded.
In what was admittedly a very short sample size, I was massively impressed with the Congolese midfielder. He looked comfortable on the ball, a decent passer, and more mobile in defense than Morgan Schneiderlin.
He projected as something of a happy medium between Schneiderlin — comfortable in possession, defensively sound, and Gueye — mobile and quick to win back the ball. His game surely needed refining — he was only 19 at the time — but his promotion into the senior team was perhaps the best thing David Unsworth did during his brief tenure as boss.
The youngster picked up an injury over the summer, and was out of contention for a place in the squad until October. Upon his return, he played two matches with the U23s — both full 90s — and then...completely dropped off the face of the earth.
It became something of a game in the RBM Slack channel to find stills of Baningime in the videos from training posted by the club. Sure enough, you could occasionally find him there, indicating that he was healthy, but not being selected for either the senior team or the U23s.
That decision alone is utterly asinine. Beni is still only 20 years old. If he’s good enough to be in the senior team, then he needs to be getting minutes. If he’s not, why the hell is he not playing with the U23 side? This isn’t a Mason Holgate or Kieran Dowell situation, where the player has had unsuccessful chances at the senior team level and is now pushing the limits of the youth age bracket.
Baningime doesn’t turn 21 until September, and had better success in two Premier League starts than Holgate or Dowell had in double-digit first-team appearances.
The only conclusion I can draw from the club’s handling of Beni is that Marco Silva, for whatever reason, doesn’t fancy the player, so he was hidden away in the Luke Garbutt Memorial Shed of Despair until he could be loaned out in January.
Why did it take Everton 30 days and 12 hours of transfer window to move the player, when clearly they had no other intent with him? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
And honestly, in another world, I could begrudgingly accept that Silva’s assessment should carry more weight than my own, and trust that ultimately this is the right move for the club.
Except that...well...Marco’s decision-making in these scenarios has been pretty much utter shit since he arrived at Everton.
He decided basically as soon as he arrived at the club that two signings from the previous regime, Davy Klaassen and Nikola Vlasic, weren’t good enough for his team. Klaassen was sold to Werden Bremen with the quickness, and Vlasic, after briefly being subjected to the embarrassment of training with Ashley Williams and Cuco Martina, was loaned to CSKA Moscow.
How are those players doing after their departure?
Klaassen has been nearly an ever-present for mid-table Bremen. He’s bounced around to basically every position in the German club’s midfield, picking up three goals and three assists in all competitions along the way. He hasn’t been a superstar, but he’s been a reliable, useful player on a mid-table club in one of the toughest leagues in the world.
Nikola Vlasic’s progress you’re probably a bit more familiar with. His image will be seared into the minds and hearts of every Real Madrid supporter until the end of time, after the Croatian picked up a goal and an assist in CSKA’s double over Real in the Champions League group stage.
He’s been effective in the Russian domestic league as well. Operating primarily in the center of the pitch, he has four goals and two assists as a regular starter for the Moscow club.
Meanwhile, Silva saw fit to watch Kieran Dowell and Mason Holgate toil in senior-team play, before mercifully putting both players out of their misery with loans to the Championship.
My point is this — Marco Silva hasn’t given us any reason to believe that his assessment of players who arrived at Everton before he did is in any way valid. This is doubly true when you consider how short the Toffees are on players who can do what Baningime seems able to — actually move the ball through the midfield.
Yet, Silva, who theoretically is supposed to be bringing “attacking” football to Merseyside, has endless space for midfielders who run a lot but aren’t good passers — read: Idrissa Gueye, Tom Davies, James McCarthy.
Gana is elite, Davies is coming off his best game of the season, and McCarthy has proven in the past that he can be a very useful Premier League player — so I’m not belittling the abilities or contributions of any of these players. But they are who they are — fundamentally different players than Andre Gomes, Morgan Schneiderlin, and yes, Beni Baningime.
If Silva can’t find room for Schneiderlin in his matchday 18, it should be all the more reason that Baningime, who brings a specific skill set often lacking in the Everton side, should be getting a chance.
Instead, he was hidden away for months without getting competitive football at any level, and now he’s headed away on a loan that screams “You aren’t wanted at this club.”
When he propels Wigan Athletic out of its relegation fight, then doesn’t want to return to Everton next season, you’ll know who to blame.