Everton paid the price for a lack of ambition as Bournemouth ran out 2-1 winners on Saturday, handing Sam Allardyce his first defeat since taking charge as the recent eight-match unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt.
There was an unwanted but fitting irony to the result as this safety-first approach backfired for the second time in four days. Despite Allardyce setting his team up to defend, his players did so terribly. Everton conceded as many goals in this match as their previous eight games combined and only stayed in the contest for so long because of the continued brilliance of Jordan Pickford.
Bournemouth began the match without a win in eight games nor a clean sheet in seven, yet their defence is unlikely to face an easier match this season. An Idrissa Gueye equaliser offering some false hope in the second half was the only shot on target from Everton in the entire match.
Not for the first time this season, the heroics of Pickford spared further embarrassment. A superb low save from Callum Wilson with the game poised at 1-1 offered a potential turning point that his teammates could not capitalise on.
Three defensive midfielders in the starting XI told its own story as Allardyce played it extremely safe against a Bournemouth side that had shipped 11 goals in three league games entering this match. Allardyce continues to bemoan the lack of quality in possession, the minimal goal threat and absent creativity, but his tactics are directly contributing to those issues and making them worse.
You cannot name a starting XI with only three attack-minded players and then voice disapproval toward the football on display. Sure, some of the decision-making by the players was not good enough, but these rash errors of judgement are a by-product of the lack of options ahead of the ball and the setup provided by Allardyce.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Another baffling and defensive starting XI from Allardyce led to a dire first half that Everton never recovered from. Decision to start two central midfielders just back from injury compounded the many failings elsewhere.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 8 -- Pickford kept the home side at bay with a string of impressive saves before a cruel deflection beat him in the closing minutes. About the one Everton player that did not deserve this defeat.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 5 -- A tough afternoon yielded a tired display from the young right-back. Caught up the field on both occasions, Kenny played a less than flattering role in both Bournemouth goals.
DF Michael Keane, 5 -- Unconvincing whenever Bournemouth players isolated him, the summer signing did not build on recent performances and shared the blame for the winning goal.
DF Phil Jagielka, 5 -- Poor outing defined by his part in the second Bournemouth goal as the club captain turned his back and the ball deflected beyond Pickford into the back of the net. Sluggish from the outset.
DF Cuco Martina, 5 -- Seemed to go down injured for no apparent reason in the build-up to the first Bournemouth goal. A better solution in the left-back position has to be near the top of the transfer wish list.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 6 -- Endured a difficult first half before finishing with surprising aplomb to draw Everton level. The midfield crumbled when Allardyce subbed Gueye with 20 minutes still to play.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 5 -- An occasional interception or two showed his ability, but his performance lacked the drive of recent matches as the midfielder struggled to influence the match.
MF James McCarthy, 4 -- Making only his second appearance of the season and first since October, the midfield conceded possession for the first goal and saw a dreadful return curtailed at half-time.
MF Aaron Lennon, 6 -- The only player to offer any threat in possession for a sustained period, particularly in a dull first half, although the final ball too often proved elusive at the crucial moment.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 6 -- Intercepted the ball and kickstarted the move for Gueye's equaliser, but could not contribute meaningfully otherwise. Moved centrally in the second half to no avail.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 5 -- There may not be a more thankless task in the Premier League than the lone striker role in this team. An isolated figure from the first whistle through to his second-half substitution.
MF Wayne Rooney, 5 -- Began in promising fashion in the final third but lost his way once dropped into a deeper role.
FW Oumar Niasse, 7 -- Injected some energy into a sterile attack and set up the goal with a neat flick to Gueye.
MF Yannick Bolasie, NR -- Wasteful cameo saw two shooting opportunities spurned and some needless trickery, resulting in little.