There were encouraging signs at Goodison Park on Saturday. Although the result did not satisfy supporters, the passion, energy and commitment on display transmitted through to the crowd, who sounded their appreciation of a gutsy performance with a generous ovation at the final whistle.
The starting lineup was the cause of some ferocious debate prior to kickoff. Would new signings Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi be included? Would Johnny Heitinga again play in midfield with a newly-fit Seamus Coleman on the right, and who would play up front?
When the final 11 was eventually revealed, there were indeed surprises. At right back Tony Hibbert came in for Phil Neville, joining a back five of Tim Howard, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines and captain for the day, Phil Jagielka.
Four were deployed across midfield. Seamus Coleman was in to show off some impressive healing powers, recovering from ankle ligament damage sustained just four weeks ago. He played on the right with Marouane Fellaini and Jack Rodwell paired centrally and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov on the left. Further forward, Leon Osman roamed freely behind Tim Cahill, who was charged with leading the line.
Of that 11, most delivered for David Moyes, and the result was certainly not what Everton deserved. They had the greater share of possession and territory, reeled off 21 shots to nine and sent in 28 crosses to Aston Villa’s eight. On a number of occasions they seemed out of luck, witnessing several efforts deflect inches wide, and at 1-0, they should have been awarded a penalty when Baines was felled in the box.
Villa were an attacking nonentity in the first half yet Everton found them painfully clinical in the second. After Osman's opener, a Stiliyan Petrov howitzer out of nowhere brought them level. They fell behind again to a Leighton Baines penalty and then withstood countless further attacks where Everton should have finished the game off. With eight minutes left, Gabby Agbonlahor made Everton pay and earned Villa a share of the spoils, getting on the end of a pinpoint cross from Marc Albrighton.
Here are five talking points provoked by Saturday’s action.