Everton were comprehensively beaten by Manchester City in a 3-0 victory for the Premier League holders.
A depleted Blues side lacking in confidence were totally outclassed by Pep Guardiola’s classy outfit with outstanding goals from Raheem Sterling and Rodri and a late tap-in from Bernardo Silva making the difference at the Etihad Stadium.
It was hoped Rafael Benitez would instruct his players to continue with the plucky, compact style of play they had implemented in their last outing as they gained a credible 0-0 draw at home to Tottenham.
However, despite naming the same starting line-up that had begun the match against the North London side, Everton instead opted to stand off the Citizens and attempt to suffocate their attacks.
It was uninspiring to say the least and the forced substitution of one of their few bright sparks Demarai Gray after just 17 minutes only made their task even harder.
The explosive winger was replaced by Alex Iwobi after pulling up with a groin injury.
The only real surprise was how long it took Manchester City to make the breakthrough which finally came on 44 minutes when former Liverpool forward Sterling got on the end of Joao Cancelo’s magnificent ball over the top and fired past Jordan Pickford.
The Toffees made little difference to their approach in the second half, with the possible exception of their passing becoming slightly more positive, and proceedings became even more routine for the champions.
A rocket from the imperious Rodri doubled their lead on 55 minutes before a shot from youngster Cole Palmer ricocheted to Silva and he slotted home for City’s third with four minutes left.
The defeat means Everton have picked up just two points out of the last 18 available and they now sit in 11th position.
It is a difficult match to appraise from an Evertonian’s perspective.
On the one hand, it took two world-class strikes and one fortunate goal for Guardiola’s team to see off an Everton side still missing their side’s core in the injured trio of Yerry Mina, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
But then it must be considered that the result itself is not the issue for the fans here and instead the nature of it is.
From the first whistle, the Toffees sat back and let their opponents dominate the ball, a surprising decision after the aforementioned aggressive pressing style that was relatively effective against Spurs.
The lack of quality in large areas of the squad was again apparent today. After replacing the injured Gray, it was yet another poor showing from Iwobi, with wayward passing and appalling final product.
Michael Keane was erratic at the best of times and, with another referee, could have easily given away at least one penalty.
Richarlison was evidently frustrated at his inability to get involved due to his isolated role as lone striker for most of the match.
His frustration came to a head on the half-hour mark when he received his fifth yellow of the season, meaning he’ll miss Everton’s next match away at Brentford, only adding to the growing list of absentees in the squad.
There is no doubting that Benitez has been dealt a bad hand and the problems on the pitch go well beyond his appointment in the summer.
But it is up to the Spaniard to get this group of players performing at a higher standard and to finally start paying back the thousands of fans who filled into the away section of the Etihad to watch their side put in such an uninspiring display.
Something needs to change quickly, as the upcoming December period could be very damaging indeed.