Ronald Koeman is learning the hard way that spending isn’t everything.
Everton are in the middle of a testing run of games in the Premier League and the Dutch tactician would have been hoping their return to the European stage would have provided a moral boosting win.
Unfortunately the Toffees first Europa League game came against an impressive Atalanta outfit who inflicted a comprehensive 3-0 defeat on the Merseysiders.
The Serie A side were vastly improved last season and though many of their best players were plucked by bigger clubs they remain formidable opponents.
Everton’s performance in northern Italy (over 100 miles away from Atalanta’s home ground which isn’t up to UEFA’s standards quite yet) was lacklustre and worrying in equal measure.
Koeman’s troops appeared to play at half-speed compared to their Italian counterparts.
No desire, no urgency and no motivation.
For fans who travelled across Europe on a Thursday night to support their team, a refund is in order.
Atalanta punished Michael Keane and the rest of Everton’s oddly-shaped backline with three goals in first half.
The nature of the first goal was particularly disappointing as defender Andrea Masiello poked home at the back post as Everton twice failed to clear a corner.
The second was a stroke of brilliance from Alejandro Gomez, the game’s standout creator, who curled a sumptuous finish past Maarten Stekelenburg from 20 yards out.
It’s obvious why Atalanta’s captain was called up for his long-awaited Argentina debut back in June.
The hammer-blow third came from Benfica loanee Bryan Cristante on the brink of half-time after yet more suspect defending.
After giving the ball away cheaply in the middle of the park no Everton player looked desperate to snuff out the danger and it was all too easy for Cristante to meander into the box and heap misery on Koeman further.
And it’s the gaffer who must take the blame for much of his side’s failings.
After a couple of inventive passes to give the visitors rare control, Wayne Rooney was forced to help out as an additional left-back for much of the first half.
Clearly the shape was unable to cope with the threat of Atalanta and yet any tinkering from Koeman only seemed to make matters worse.
It could have been a real thrashing as well.
The hosts rattled the bar and mercifully squandered chances to increase the deficit early in the second half before coasting towards the final whistle.
Everton continue their tricky start to the domestic season on Sunday with a trip to league leaders Man United.
And judging by tonight’s showing, they could be in for a pasting — not a return Rooney will be relishing.
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