Sean Dyche called it before a ball was kicked.
"Football is a beautiful, amazing game but the underbelly of it, in my opinion, is always hard work," he said at his first pre-match press conference as Everton manager. "One of my big sayings is, ‘A great attitude is everything’ - and we have to apply that."
Everton showed that in abundance here, as James Tarkowski’s thundering second-half header ensured the new Blues boss began his reign with a memorable 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park.
Labelled clear underdogs heading into the contest, Everton produced a performance full of energy, organisation and controlled aggression that will have buoyed Dyche and, of course, Evertonians, who once again backed their side vociferously throughout.
For all the talk of Dyche's perceived preference of playing in a 4-4-2 formation, the new Blues boss perhaps sprung a surprise by setting out his team in a 4-5-1 shape against Mikel Arteta's title chasers.
Two changes were made from the side that began the clash with West Ham United in the capital a fortnight ago, with Dwight McNeil and Abdoulaye Doucoure - both of whom made crucial contributions in providing the requisite energy to achieve such a result - recalled to the starting line-up.
Speaking to broadcasters ahead of kick-off, Dominic Calvert-Lewin revealed the message from the manager was clear. “We must be hard to beat and back ourselves, play with confidence, and play exciting football,” he explained.
Easy to say but another thing entirely to execute against a ruthless Arsenal outfit that boasted the second-best record for goals scored and conceded heading to Merseyside for this Saturday lunchtime encounter.
The feeling of excitement inside Goodison was palpable as the players emerged from the tunnel to Z-Cars and the decibel level was cranked up further when Dyche was introduced to his new home supporters.
But Everton quickly settled into their new shape with discipline as the visitors looked to assert dominance from the outset.
This was by no means backs to the wall, though. Everton were here to win it.
With the game less than three minutes old, the Toffees manufactured the first opening, Amadou Onana picking the perfect moment to pinch possession in midfield before finding Alex Iwobi, who released Dominic Calvert-Lewin through on goal.
William Saliba recovered well to snuff out the danger as Calvert-Lewin bore down on goal from an acute angle but that served as a sign of things to come.
The attacking intent was clear again six minutes later when McNeil drove the ball at Arsenal’s defence before his shot deflected agonisingly out of Calvert-Lewin’s reach.
The first half continued to follow a similar pattern. The opening period ended with Arsenal having 70 per cent possession, but the hosts creating the better of the chances.
Amadou Onana has been in fine form of late and that continued with another all-action performance here. A constant thorn in the side of Arsenal’s attack, he displayed his strength in an attacking sense just after the half hour, intercepting on the halfway line before turning on the afterburners to stride past Martin Ødegaard. The Belgian then composed himself to produce an inviting low centre across the face of the six-yard box but the on-rushing Calvert-Lewin was half a yard too late to turn it home.
Doucoure was then presented with a golden chance 60 seconds later, but couldn’t get enough purchase on his header to direct it on goal after an inch-perfect McNeil cross.
Jordan Pickford, on his 200th Premier League appearance for the Club, was merely a spectator by this point but Arsenal’s first chance came six minutes before the interval.
It came from nothing. A speculative ball into the box from the left flank by Gabriel Martinelli was met by a vicious volley from Bukayo Saka and, thankfully, with Pickford rooted to the spot, Coady had read the danger to clear his England teammate’s effort off the line.
The best chance of the opening half, however, fell to Calvert-Lewin when, with the last action before the referee’s whistle, Iwobi’s cutting pass played in Coleman down the right channel and the captain’s cross was glanced just narrowly wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s right-hand post.
Arsenal came flying out of the blocks for the second period and, for the first time of the afternoon, looked to be building a head of steam.
However, as per Dyche’s pre-match promise, there remained a threat, an intention to hurt Arsenal at the right moments.
The defining moment came on the hour mark - and there would be a surreal feeling of familiarity for Dyche, who watched two of his former Burnley players combine for his first goal in charge of Everton.
McNeil’s in-swinging corner had been asking questions of Arsenal’s backline all afternoon but there were no pleasantries this time, as Tarkowski stormed ahead of his marker to head home into the Gwladys Street net for his first goal for the Club.
It sent Goodison into raptures.
There was a response, as you’d expect from a side chasing league glory but Everton’s discipline was such that the Gunners were restricted to half chances. Ødegaard and Saka both blazing over from separate strikes.
Those frustrations were underlined when Oleksandr Zinchenko’s 35-yard drive sailed harmlessly over the crossbar in the dying embers, before the Ukrainian was booked for launching substitute Neal Maupay to the ground in a separate incident.
All of that would be footnote to an unforgettable afternoon.
No place in the country does defiance like Goodison Park, as proved by the scenes on the full-time whistle.
Onana beat his chest, Doucoure fell to his knees and McNeil pointed to the heavens, while a sold-out crowd roared before singing every beat of ‘Spirit of the Blues’ with a sense of renewed optimism.