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.

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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.

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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).

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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.