Tom Davies the only bright spot in Everton's heavy defeat at Man Utd
When a 4-0 defeat in September is not your worst performance of the season, let alone the week, it provides an idea of Everton's plight after shipping four goals against Manchester United on Sunday. A late collapse underlined the fragility of an away side falling to four straight losses with 12 goals conceded and none scored over that span. No Everton player touched the ball in the opposing half in the opening 10 minutes and within four minutes, the home side led.
Despite some belated signs of life, the first half ended without an Everton shot on target as cutting edge, pace and genuine quality remained in short supply throughout the match. United remained the more likely scorers as shown by the 10-minute flurry to end the match.
The performance of 19-year-old Tom Davies offered a solitary ray of light amid the darkness. Koeman called on his experienced players for a reaction but it was Davies rising to the occasion on Sunday. The young midfielder possessed the energetic and fearless approach that was lacking elsewhere, raising the tempo and providing some invention in possession.
Koeman's decision to withdraw Davies when making his first substitution aptly summarised the frustrating, confusing and cautious tactics prevalent this season. Yet the hope is that the preceding 66 minutes showed the way forward as Everton require more of this drive and purpose on the ball.
Defeat leaves Everton win-less in 11 Premier League away games for the first time since May 2004, while another blank means four matches without a goal for the first time since April, 2006. Koeman has seen his team go more than 400 minutes since their last goal in all competitions.
Just two goals scored and 10 shots on target in five league games highlight the ongoing search for answers in attack. The use of five defenders and two holding midfielders remains too restrictive for a team short on creativity and goal threat.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- His team displayed more fight in the middle 70 minutes of the match, but United scored four without leaving first gear. More adventure imperative in terms of tactics and starting XI.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 5 -- Quick off his line on a couple of occasions to smother openings but his poor decision-making and erratic kicking invited trouble too often.
DF Cuco Martina, 5 -- Better moving forward than backward, Martina provided a useful attacking outlet in the first half but did little to ease doubts about his abilities nearer to his own goal.
DF Michael Keane, 5 -- Out of sorts on the right of the central defensive trio, the summer signing almost gifted a goal to Romelu Lukaku in the first half and needs to get back on track after a dip in form.
DF Ashley Williams, 5 -- Still just about the only player truly at home in the back-three system, Williams undid a solid display with a calamitous pass straight to former teammate Romelu Lukaku for Man United's second goal.
DF Phil Jagielka, 6 -- The best of a mediocre defensive bunch on the day as the absence of glaring errors put him above teammates, though that in itself is hardly a ringing endorsement.
DF Leighton Baines, 5 -- Disappointing on the last two goals and well below his best. The 32-year-old would benefit from a rest in the League Cup next week but the lack of alternatives makes that unlikely.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 6 -- The team set-up demands an awful lot of him and the task can sometimes become too big. There was the usual industry without the ball but one or two lapses in possession.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 6 -- Handball for the penalty tarnished his afternoon, but this marked an improvement on recent outings. More determined in the tackle and involved when Everton had possession.
MF Tom Davies, 8 -- Everton look a better team with him on the pitch. Not even on the substitutes' bench in midweek, this was a fine riposte and surely sent a message to his manager.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 5 -- Continued use out wide amplifies his weaknesses. Again, spending all that money to throw the £45 million signing on the flanks is a bewildering choice. Missed a presentable opening with Rooney better placed behind him.
FW Wayne Rooney, 6 -- Fired just wide in the first half and forced a save from David de Gea in the second. A prominent figure but tired badly and his tendency to drop deep left Everton without a focal point.
FW Sandro Ramirez, 6 -- The 22-year-old offered additional and welcome attacking threat before the eventual defensive collapse.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, NR -- Still the best option for a focal point in the final third and needed more than the 14-minute outing granted here.
MF Kevin Mirallas, NR -- A spectator while his teammates self-destructed in the final 10 minutes.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.