Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta watched on from the stands as Everton and Arsenal fought out a dreary 0-0 stalemate at Goodison Park.
Everton announced shortly before the match that Ancelotti had signed a four-and-a-half-year deal, while Arteta was also in the stands having put pen to paper at Arsenal on Friday.
Ancelotti certainly represents a coup on paper for Everton given his CV, but lifting the Toffees out of their current malaise represents a very different challenge to his usual task of delivering silverware at the world’s biggest clubs.
The 60-year-old immediately confirmed that he would be retaining the services of coach Duncan Ferguson, praising the Scot for his work as interim boss.
Ferguson’s only defeat in four tough fixtures came on penalties against Leicester in the Carabao Cup in midweek and he used his programme notes to thank the fans and players, saying the experience had surpassed his expectations.
Freddie Ljungberg has been considerably less successful since stepping in following the sacking of Unai Emery, winning just one of his six games, and this performance summed up Arsenal’s troubles.
The game was littered with misplaced passes and ineffectual final balls from both teams, with just two shots on target in the entire 90 minutes.
There had been a tangible sense of optimism as the teams took to the field, with both showing significant changes.
Everton have been struggling with injuries and illness but Ferguson was able to recall Fabian Delph, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibe while Ljungberg made five chances from the dispiriting defeat by Manchester City last weekend.
Youth was a theme, with Emile Smith Rowe given a first Premier League start alongside Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli, and Bukayo Saka selected at left-back.
Mesut Ozil was sidelined with a foot injury but Ljungberg revealed before the match that he would not have been involved anyway because of his reaction to being substituted against City.
Watching Ancelotti and Arteta in the stands may have been preferable to concentrating on the pitch, such was the paucity of quality on show in the first half.
Everton at least offered some intensity and purpose and managed five shots, but none were on target, with Sigurdsson’s 18th-minute free-kick the closest they came.
The Toffees had to contend with another injury, meanwhile, Alex Iwobi forced off after only 11 minutes with a right hamstring issue and Cenk Tosun coming on.
Arsenal had more possession but did very little with it, not managing a single effort on goal until the 44th minute, when Lucas Torreira played a fine through ball for Martinelli, who shot just wide.
The Gunners looked more fired up after half-time and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang produced the first shot on target in the 51st minute, his snap-shot from a corner well saved by Jordan Pickford, though the striker probably should have scored.
Saka, meanwhile, was a touch fortunate to escape a second yellow card for a very high boot on Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Everton threatened in the 68th minute when the ball was cut back for Calvert-Lewin on the edge of the box and his shot was half blocked before the ball eventually span just wide of goal off defender Calum Chambers.
VAR checked for a possible penalty after Calvert-Lewin’s shot hit a diving Torreira on the arm but nothing was given.
As he had against Manchester United, Ferguson chose to substitute a substitute, although this time it was Moise Kean who came on, with a furious-looking Tosun the man removed.
Ferguson again did not even look at Tosun as he marched off and headed straight down the tunnel.
He did not miss any meaningful action, with referee Kevin Friend’s final whistle something of a relief.