LONDON • Aston Villa's game plan was limited but understandable. Tasked with defending in numbers by Remi Garde, their intention was to frustrate rather than excite but even that proved beyond them on Saturday.
Their resistance, if you could describe it as such, lasted 17 minutes and what followed will only have increased fears that this will be the season when they part company with English Premier League football.
A 4-0 win did not flatter Everton. If anything, it underplayed their superiority.
Without ever having to hit top gear, Roberto Martinez's side, inspired by Ross Barkley, who scored twice, Romelu Lukaku, who also netted a double, and Gerard Deulofeu, laid waste to Villa in a manner that underlined their growing confidence, not to mention their opponents' glaring frailties.
Once Barkley had opened the scoring at the back post, bringing a decisive end to an intricate move he started with a clever flick, Villa might as well have walked off the pitch and conceded the points because what followed was not vastly different nor any better.
Standing off players when they should have been getting tight, letting runners go and failing to compete in key areas - this was an object lesson in how not to be hard to beat.
For Garde, appointed less than three weeks ago with a brief to save Villa from relegation, this must have been a particularly chastening afternoon. "When you are 3-0 down at half-time, the game is over," he admitted.
The approach that served him well in his first game as manager, a 0-0 home draw with Manchester City two weeks ago, was found wanting away from Villa Park to such an extent that the Frenchman must be wondering what tactics he can use with any degree of confidence in the future.
The last time Aston Villa suffered such a heavy defeat by Everton, they could at least console themselves with the knowledge they had been crowned champions of Europe three months earlier.
Now they are reduced to making history of a different sort. The poorest start in their 141-year existence has got worse.
Everton, on the other hand, are developing a taste for thrashings. "Ten goals from open play in two games at home is quite remarkable," said Martínez. "It is a group of players with an incredible chemistry."
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN