Time for Allardyce to prove himself as Everton manager

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It was an easy decision for Sam “never been relegated” Allardyce to take over a talented Everton ship that was not in the drop zone and was never going to be sent down to the Championship.

If it was easy for the Toffees to settle on him, however, it shouldn’t have been, and now Everton is reaping the problems that come with hiring the embattled English boss.

Everton has lost three-straight matches to dip seven points behind the seventh place, the same amount of points it sits above the drop zone.

[ PL PLAYBACK: Man City blueprint, Alexis, VAR, relegation ]

The club’s last match before Allardyce took over saw the Toffees smash West Ham United 4-0 to move into 14th place in the Premier League.

It started a run of decent results, including three wins and draws against Liverpool and Chelsea.

Upon further review, however, there are some alarming notes in the results.

— Everton’s three wins under Big Sam are against Huddersfield Town (14th), Newcastle United (15th) , and Swansea City (20th).

— It’s also drawn West Brom (19th place) and lost to Bournemouth (13th).

Allardyce’s last two losses, to Manchester United and Spurs, are of course totally understandable.

[ MORE: Spurs 4-0 Everton | 2 Robbies discuss ]

But any dig into traditional statistics should be frightening to Toffees supporters, who have seen their club fail to register a shot on target in 2018, and in three of nine league matches under Allardyce.

They’ve out-attempted the opposition just twice in that span. Overall, these are numbers. First is shots attempted, the second is shots on target, the third is possession.

Huddersfield (H) – 6-5, 4-3, 47 percent
Liverpool (A) – 3-23, 2-3, 21 percent
Newcastle (A) – 7-16, 4-4, 45 percent
Swansea (H) – 12-8, 7-3, 51 percent
Chelsea (H)  – 5-25, 0-8, 32 percent
West Brom (A) – 7-17, 3-3, 47 percent
Bournemouth (A) – 6-18, 1-7, 47 percent
Man Utd (H) – 12-21, 0-6, 40 percent
Spurs (A) – 7-20, 0-10, 38 percent
TOTAL – Outshot 153-65, 47-21 on target, 40.8 avg. possession

Those numbers are awful.

West Brom (H) and Leicester City (H) are next, followed by a three-match February against Arsenal (A), Crystal Palace (H), and Watford (A). Given the talent on Everton’s squad and the club’s clear ambition, there isn’t a game outside of Arsenal — whose strength in February is a variable — in which the Toffees should not have have a chance at, if not a probability of, most of the ball and most of the shots.

Again, Everton is not going down. Any discussion of this, especially from its manager, is a huge bit of misdirection. Given the tight nature of the league and the teams angling for seventh — Burnley, Leicester, and West Ham among them — Everton has a legit shot at Europe (assuming a Top Six team wins the League Cup or FA Cup, which looks 99.9 percent certain in the case of the former).

[ MORE: Liverpool 4-3 Man City | 3 things ] 

Is it reasonable to think Allardyce should be able to outperform Burnley by eight points the rest of the way? Reasonable, yes. Better than Leicester by five? Iffy. But being caught by Watford, Crystal Palace, or West Ham would be a failure.

When you consider that Allardyce received so much credit for Palace’s turnaround last season after a number of influential January buys, and that he also led West Ham under similar criticisms to this post, that failure could be magnified in a significant way.

Allardyce considers his record beyond reproach, and it’s a decent one to be sure. Additionally, it’s no secret that this writer has long been skeptical of his record salesmanship.

But these next few months, with new striker Cenk Tosun in tow, are one of the bigger tests of his career: taking a talented group and turning it into a very good team. Nothing else should be acceptable. Remember: Everton was out of the drop zone when he took over and relegation concerns were almost always laughable.

“Never been relegated?” That’s fine, but Allardyce is a decade removed from leading Bolton into Europe and hasn’t won more than 38 percent of his matches at any stop since leaving the Wanderers. At some point, more people will mention the emperor’s lack of clothes if he can’t don some fine fashion.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).

Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Europa League preview: Rating every second leg

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Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are one of many teams with their UEFA Europa League fates realistically in the balance come Thursday’s second legs of the Round of 32.

[ MORE: Sevilla 0-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Aside from a sextet of big teams posting blowouts, there’s still hope for the Round of 16 and a step closer to an automatic berth in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

Basically done

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Astana — 1 p.m. ET
Arsenal 3-0 Ostersund — 3:05 p.m. ET
Milan 3-0 Ludogorets Razgrad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Spartak Moscow — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga 0-3 Marseille — 3:05 p.m. ET

In four of these cases, the heavy favorites emerged with multiple goal leads and at least three away goals.

Actually done

CSKA Moscow beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 on Wednesday to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Unlikely, but big club lurks

RB Leipzig 3-1 Napoli — 1 p.m. ET
Villarreal 1-3 Lyon — 1 p.m. ET

In the case of Napoli, their 3-1 home loss to Leipzig was stunning but it’s impossible to rule out a club with such firepower. Villarreal trails by two to Lyon, but is home and dangerous.

Advantage one side, but anyone’s guess

Lokomotiv Moscow 3-2 Nice — 11 a.m. ET
Lazio 0-1 FCSB — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg 0-1 Celtic — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Real Sociedad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Atalanta 2-3 Borussia Dortmund — 3:05 p.m. ET

Salzburg’s two away goals in a draw feels like a one-goal lead, and the one-goal matches are especially interesting. In the case of Atalanta, 1-0 to the Serie A side could undo Michy Batshuayi‘s first leg heroics for BVB.

Wide open

Plzen 1-1 Partizan Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 AEK Athens — 1 p.m. ET

Yes, nil-nil will get it done for the hosts, but there wasn’t a 0-0 in the entire group of first legs.