Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley shine in Everton's win at Southampton
Dissent filled the pre-match air ahead of Everton's 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday as disgruntled supporters flew a plane over St Mary's to convey their disillusionment with those in the boardroom.
It was an action born from a catalogue of grievances centring on absent investment, failed stadium moves, disappointing commercial performance and an increasing reliance on television money disguising a club seemingly without a clear plan on how to progress off the pitch.
The club hierarchy is a divisive issue among fans but there was only support for those on the pitch and the Everton players repaid the backing of another sold-out away allocation with a blast of counterattacking finesse en route to a clinical win.
Nobody saw this coming; from slow and predictable to a team refreshed in seven days. The need for fresh legs remains and this is still a squad short in key positions but this acted as a timely reminder of the potential within this promising, albeit thinly spread group of players.
Focus shifted from ball retention to the effective use of it and resulted in passing with the purpose missing on the opening day. Out went the superfluous football in areas of no danger to the opposition, replaced by intent to quickly shift the ball through the team and play in the final third of the pitch.
This result hands the Blues, a team famed for their slow starts, their earliest win in a season under Roberto Martinez and the three points owed much to the subtle changes implemented by the manager.
Attracting criticism for faith in a rigid system and style, this was much closer to the studious tactician evident throughout his debut campaign. This was Martinez willing to break from the norm and try different options to get the best from his players.
The head-scratching decision to employ Arouna Kone as an auxiliary right-sided midfielder paid off with his excellent assist for the opening goal. Dropping Gareth Barry into a holding role behind the rest of the midfield eased the burden on the 34-year-old, though the veteran midfielder still covered the most ground for the second successive match.
This adjusted role allowed Barry to focus on his defensive strengths and take a step back from the pressures of anchoring the midfield and kick-starting attacking moves. Able to shield the equally impressive defence behind him, Barry demonstrated his astute reading of the game and strong positional play to snuff out danger on the rare occasions the home side threatened. Removing Barry from the spotlight provided others with a chance to step up.
James McCarthy shines brightest when able to impose his pressing game and all-action style in the opposing half and a starting position in advance of Barry allowed the tigerish midfielder to affect the game. Hassling home players and keeping the pressure on, an on-form McCarthy seems to inspire extra effort from those around him.
The work of these two midfield mainstays opened centre stage for Ross Barkley and it was an invitation gleefully accepted by the young midfielder, scoring one and assisting another for the first time in his fledgling career. In the space of two matches, Barkley has overtaken last season's assists tally and equalled his goal return.
Employed in a central position slightly deeper than his customary role, the extra space meant more options in possession and more space to attack. Instead of being crowded out too close to the opposing goal, Barkley revelled in the freedom and attempted the most passes of those in green; even a squandered chance in the first half could not dampen his afternoon.
Direct, driving forward whenever possible and involved in each of the three goals, Barkley echoed the player building a burgeoning partnership with Lukaku two seasons ago.
Lukaku especially is a different prospect when properly supported by teammates. One early lung-busting run hinted at the performance to follow from a marauding forward impossible to handle in this mood. Tactics suited to his abilities and a supply line offering quality service led to two fine finishes from the Belgian.
Lukaku and Barkley operate best when freed to concentrate on their strengths in the opposing half. Disrupted by injuries and positional changes in the previous campaign, the flowing second goal and Lukaku to Barkley as the most frequent passing combination served as a reminder of how lethal a combination Everton possess when this duo are able to flourish.
Keeping these two firing is imperative if this striking performance is to be built on.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.