TIMING is everything in football, and at the end of a week in which debate has raged as to whether the sport provides value for money for its long-suffering supporters, Everton and Swansea picked a far from ideal time to serve up a rare stalemate.
Goals have been a guarantee at Goodison Park this season. Everton had scored in each of their last 20 games in all competitions prior to kick- off, their longest such sequence since 1986.
But all good runs must come to an end at some stage. In front of the watching Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, who ran the rule over a quartet of Swansea talents, David Moyes' side drew their first blank since September 1.
Del Bosque made for the exit 12 minutes from time here, and it was little wonder.
A football purist, he will have found little to have excited him in Goodison's first goalless draw since December 2010.
Certainly, he will have been impressed by the defensive solidity of Chico Flores and Angel Rangel, but if he was looking for signs that either Pablo Hernandez or, more likely, Michu could add attacking verve to the best team in the world, then he will have found little evidence.
Swansea's remit was a defensive one, for which their manager, Michael Laudrup, made no apologies.
“If Del Bosque had called me before, I could have told him it wasn't the best game to see Michu," said the Dane afterwards, although his leading scorer went as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock, seeing a chipped first-half effort turned onto the bar by Tim Howard.
That, though, came from one of Swansea's all-too-rare forward incursions. For Everton, on the other hand, the tale is one of two points dropped. They were easily the game's dominant force throughout, though rarely did that dominance yield clear chances to match.
Victor Anichebe in the first half, and Phil Jagielka in the second, spurned the home side's best openings, though they were suffocated both before and after by Swansea's solid, at times crude, defensive work.
It was frustrating stuff. And if expectation is the price of success, then Moyes' side are paying it at the moment.
Their visitors came with a game plan designed to stifle the life out of their attacking play – Rangel, nominally a full-back, was selected to play in front of Dwight Tiendalli in a wide midfield role, in a bid to combat the work of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar down Everton's left – and in that sense their plan worked.
Swansea have the joint-best away defensive record in the Premier League and, with Chico and Ashley Williams outstanding, it was easy to see why here.
Moyes' problem is one of numbers at the moment. Without Kevin Mirallas, Tony Hibbert and Darron Gibson, Everton's squad looks thinner than it should for a club of their ambition.
Still, the Scot was able to name a side with just one change from last Monday's FA Cup tie at Cheltenham, with Pienaar replacing Bryan Oviedo down the left.