For the past two years Everton have circled the plughole and somehow managed to drag themselves clear when all appeared lost.
Could this be the season when annual ineptitude finally catches up with them and ends in relegation to the Championship?
After just two games, and two defeats, it is already inevitable that Everton are facing another horror movie of a season.
They were the second lowest scorers in the Premier League last season and although they are closing in on the £15 million capture of Southampton forward Che Adams, it was the poor goals conceded here that will have seriously concerned Sean Dyche.
Everton were so far behind Aston Villa in every department it was almost embarrassing, and many of their travelling supporters had streamed for the exits long before the fourth goal. Michael Keane, in particular, endured a very chastening afternoon.
Any hopes Dyche might have harboured of his players discovering some momentum from last season’s dramatic scramble to safety have already disappeared.
Everton were booed off at the end of each half and that is a familiar soundtrack from last season.
Dyche said: “We were miles off it. That was not good enough, it was way off where we want to be, way off the consistency we need.
“Too many mistakes get punished but overall I won’t make any excuses, they were far better than us. We were lackadaisical and the body language for our defending wasn’t there.
“Before I got here I thought when the team concedes a goal they go soft quickly and that happened here.
“You have to accept a collective downer and there’s hardly a player you can name as anywhere near what we can do. We’ve got to learn from this very quickly and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
While Everton were atrocious, Villa were irresistible with record signing Moussa Diaby at the forefront of a fine team performance.
Diaby is the £43 million recruit from Bayer Leverkusen with rapid pace who is already making a quick impression and this was a fine performance on his home debut, with Leon Bailey and John McGinn also excellent.
With the modern game so in thrall to speed, risk and free expression, Diaby could prove a potent weapon in Unai Emery’s Villa revolution.
Emery has signed the France international as he can play in many attacking positions but what always remains consistent is his ability to unsettle defenders.
At the start of a significant week for Villa, with the club marking their return to European football for the first time in 13 years on Wednesday, Diaby offered a hint of the excitement to come.
In one moment towards the end of half-time, a slick attacking move ended with Diaby volleying on goal and he was only denied by an outstanding save from Jordan Pickford.
The only thing missing from Diaby’s performance was a goal, but Everton were still swatted aside with strikes from John McGinn, Douglas Luiz’s penalty, and close-range finishes from Bailey and substitute Jhon Duran.
This was the perfect response to last weekend’s thrashing at Newcastle, which included the season-ending injury to captain Tyrone Mings.
Villa have won eight successive games at home without conceding a goal from open play.
“Last week was not good but this was much better and it’s an important result,” said Emery.
“Moussa needs time to connect and understand his team-mates, we will work with him. He can help us score more goals and can run behind the opponent. I think he can improve, he is young but mature and demands a lot from himself.
“There are still things we need to improve on. I want to dedicate this victory to Tyrone and Emiliano Buendia.”
Villa were ahead after 18 minutes when McGinn – who returns to his former club Hibernian on Wednesday in the Europa Conference League – converted Bailey’s cross.
Douglas Luiz added a penalty after Pickford took out Ollie Watkins.
Everton’s problems increased when lone striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was taken off seven minutes before half-time. He was clearly struggling with blurred vision after an early collision with Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and could not continue. Alex Iwobi was also replaced early in the second half with a hamstring injury.
Villa remained in control and the third goal from Bailey, punishing a mistake by Keane, sparked an exodus of Everton fans who had seen enough.
Duran, a substitute, added the fourth goal after Ashley Young’s appalling throw and a miskick by Keane was intercepted.
Brighter days for Villa ahead, but another turbulent season for Everton seems likely.
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martinez 7; Cash 7, Konsa 7, Torres 7, Digne 7; Kamara 7, Douglas Luiz 7 (Carlos 64); Bailey 7 (Tielemans 64), Diaby 8 (Coutinho 64, Archer 86), McGinn 8; Watkins 8 (Duran 74)
Subs not used: Olsen (g), Marschall (g), Traore, Chambers
Booked: Digne, Douglas Luiz, Archer.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Pickford 7; Patterson 6, Keane 3, Tarkowski 5, Young 5; Garner 6, Gueye 5 (Dobbin half-time), Onana 5, Iwobi 5 (Maupay 51); Doucoure 5 (Onyango 90+8) Calvert-Lewin 5 (Danjuma 38)
Subs not used: Virginia (g), Mykolenko, Godfrey, Branthwaite, Cannon. Booked: Pickford, Keane, Gueye, Patterson
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)