This, it is fair to assume, is not what Wayne Rooney envisaged when he returned to the club he has supported all his life.
Dropped for the first time in his second spell at Everton, he was summoned in a vain search for an equaliser. Instead Burnley won at Goodison Park. A club that Jose Mourinho, perhaps mischievously, said should be aiming for the top four instead languish in the bottom five. Everton, who underwent a £140 million (Dh689m) makeover in the summer, look a mess.
“It is so easy to talk about the money,” manager Ronald Koeman said, but it explained the supporters’ unrest. Goodison moaned, groaned and occasionally booed.
The constant soundtrack came from the buoyant Burnley fans. Their jubilation was understandable. It was a first win on this ground since 1976. Their first four away games have sent them to Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton. It seemed a recipe for no points. Burnley have taken eight.
“I don’t think anyone could see that [coming],” manager Sean Dyche said. As Burnley only took seven points on their travels last season, certainly not.
But they serve as an indictment of Everton. Burnley recruited astutely to fill specific roles. They made a transfer-market profit. They allied unity with industry. In contrast, Everton were curiously purposeless, lacking enough urgency or creativity, speed or width.
Nor, indeed, do they have a set system. The increasingly unpopular Koeman deflected questions about his future. “That is not in my hands,” the Dutchman said.
[ Selection is, and he does not know his strongest side. ]
The teamsheet was an admission mistakes were made in the summer.
Everton had been tried playing with three No 10s. They began with none, with Gylfi Sigurdsson was playing off the left wing in a Brazilian-style 4-2-2-2 formation, even if little of Everton’s play evoked five-time world champions. They ended up with a midfield diamond, though that scarcely shone.
"I can't complain about my players today," Koeman said. His was a strange appraisal, perhaps a reaction to recent criticisms that seem to have backfired. "The commitment and the spirit was really positive. They did everything."
Everything bar threaten to score. Everton only mustered four shots on target. Rooney was demoted, Koeman said, “to bring a second striker in” but made scant difference when he came on.
Others were similarly culpable. Sigurdsson is scarcely justifying a £45 million price tag. Idrissa Gueye, scorer of one goal in 75 Premier League games, kept trying long-range shots. None went in. Oumar Niasse, banished by Koeman but newly furnished with a club suit, was Everton’s brightest attacker. Burnley defended with resolve.
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Everton did not. Even supposed strengths are deserting them. The ever more error-prone Ashley Williams illustrates how Everton’s senior players are struggling for form. They keep on conceding early. Only Crystal Palace have spent more time trailing than them and Koeman’s team are too slow to chase a game.
They were behind after 21 minutes. Burnley are often deemed direct but their reputation for graft can conceal the craft in their ranks. Dyche has quietly upgraded his midfield while recruiting players who conform to the team ethic.
Their goal was beautifully manufactured. The classy Steven Defour was a catalyst in a 24-pass move that involved nine players. Two veterans of their Championship days, Scott Arfield and Stephen Ward, combined and the left-back picked out Jeff Hendrick, who evaded Morgan Schneiderlin with ease and steered a shot in.
“A fantastic goal,” Dyche said. “But there are no Barcelona statements.”
Burnley are rarely mentioned in the same breath as Barcelona but the Nou Camp alumnus, Koeman, was deservedly defeated by the men from Turf Moor.