Most of us are still coming to terms with the horrific collision that has cost André Gomes his season. Whether it was a red card or not is neither here nor there; this is a young man, in the prime of his life, who will have to rebuild his career after suffering the kind of injury that requires extensive rehabilitation to get them back to where they once were, physically speaking. The good news is that the Portuguese ace’s surgery was a success, and after thanking fans he will now start a year-long process of recovery and rehab.
Gomes’ injury has also caused a major headache in midfield for Marco Silva. Alongside Fabian Delph, he has been an integral part of the starting eleven, and without him, there is a gaping chasm in the middle of the park.
More pertinently, there’s not a high-quality queue of replacements forming. The manager will surely break open the cheque book in the January transfer window to procure a new midfielder, but in the meantime, he will have to make do with the options at his disposal. So who is the best replacement in midfield for Gomes? Here we rank the three main contenders:
#1 – Tom Davies
Having explosively burst onto the scene as one of the most exciting youngsters to come through the academy in years, the lack of progress in Tom Davies’ career has perplexed many a Toffees fan.
Since his breakthrough campaign in 2016/17, the 21-year-old has not been able to secure a regular starting berth in midfield, and has consequently fallen down the pecking order. But the injuries to Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin – and the loss of Idrissa Gueye – means that the time is right for Davies to step up to the plate.
The system that Silva operates demands energy and vitality in midfield, and for us that’s where Davies has the edge over the rather more prosaic Morgan Schneiderlin. Of course, he needs to improve his output. He is yet to make a single key pass in his three starts this term, and a pass success rate of 80.8% is low for a player tasked with distributing the ball simply to Sigurdsson and co.
But defensively he is sound, making 1.8 tackles per 90 minutes and 1.2 interceptions, and that is crucial in a side fighting for their lives. Like it or not, the latest Premier League relegation betting odds have us only slightly higher than finishing in the top six. As such, Davies’ all-action style gets the nod from us.
#2 – Morgan Schneiderlin
It would be fair to say that Schneiderlin is not universally loved at Goodison Park. He is an excellent player from a technical perspective, that is not in question, but there are other components to being an elite-level midfielder and the Frenchman seems to be lacking in some of them.
The 29-year-old makes 0.3 key passes per 90 minutes and boasts a pass success rate of a handsome 88.5%, and he certainly can hold his own defensively as 1.7 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game attests.
But with Sigurdsson a rather immobile presence at number ten who lacks pace, we really need a driving number eight who can go beyond him and get into dangerous areas. That is not Schneiderlin’s game and explains why he would be better suited with Davies alongside him, rather than instead of him.
#3 – Beni Baningime
One almighty curveball would be to throw this raw 21-year-old into the mix. Beni Baningime looked to have all the talent in the world when he made his first-team debut back in the 2017/18 campaign, but unfortunately he seems to have lost his way since.
The Congolese midfielder has barely featured in the first-team picture since, and in a loan spell at Wigan in the second half of last season – designed to get his career back on track – Baningime made just one solitary appearance for the Latics.
He has been drawing rave reviews for his performances in the Under-23s, with manager David Unsworth commenting that “I think he’s getting back to the levels he was at.”
For now, those levels are perhaps not being involved in the thick end of a Premier League dogfight, and for that reason, we’re hoping that Davies gets the chance to prove himself for the next few months until the transfer window slides open once more.