Apr 24, 2017
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Everton can look to the future with optimism under Ronald Koeman

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Everton have been a team on the rise since the turn of the year, and have put in a fine string of results to propel themselves up the Premier League table after a mixed start to life under new manager Ronald Koeman.

The Toffees have been on a scoring spree in recent months with Romelu Lukaku being the spearhead of their attack, bagging 24 league goals all season. Finding the back of the net has been the club’s main problem in recent years, and Koeman has changed that at Goodison Park, along with many other things.

The Liverpool-based side are almost certain to finish in the top seven and guarantee European football next season as Manchester United’s success in the EFL Cup, and possible Europa League success, grants England another spot for next term’s Europa League competition. It was an initial goal for Koeman to get there, and he has achieved that in fine fashion.

In doing so, Everton have scored 60 goals in the league, and have the second-best home record in the division, after Tottenham Hotspur, with two games left to play. In addition to that, the club are set to finish in the top half of the table for the first time since 2013-14, when they managed an impressive fifth-place finish under Roberto Martínez.

Ronald Koeman has also paid tribute to his Dutch, Ajax and Barcelona roots with his management of the side this season. He’s integrated several players from the Everton academy into the first team, with Tom Davies breaking into the first team, making 20 appearances across all competitions.

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The Dutch manager’s transfer movements also deserves praise, with signings such as that of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman from Sheffield United and Charlton Athletic, respectively, giving fans something to look out for in the near future.

And, add to that, the fact Everton’s under-21s sit atop the Premier League 2 table, with the title in sight – they’ve played a game more than second-placed Manchester City, but hold a six-point advantage – and there is even greater cause for optimism among the Everton support.

Koeman has also taken full advantage of the additional funds available to him by stakeholder Farhad Moshiri. The signings of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin have been effective for them, while injuries have kept out the attacking threat Yannick Bolasie, who looked like a fine purchase throughout the opening weeks of the campaign.

One of his most important signings in his tenure has been that of Welsh centre-half Ashley Williams, who has been a consistent figure in defence. Despite not having a constant partner, with Phil Jagielka replacing the injured Ramiro Funes-Mori or youngster Matthew Pennington stepping up beside him, he has held his own and has expectedly been one of the club’s best players this season.

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The biggest problem posed to this Everton side now is the uncertain futures of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley. Both have cited their desires to be playing Champions League football, as reported by Sky Sports, with the former even going as far as rejecting an improved five-year deal at the club, according to BBC Sport.

Lukaku looks the likelier of the two to leave and there is no shortage of suitors for him with Manchester United and his former club Chelsea linked with moves for him. It is unclear how Koeman will handle this situation, and with the improvements taking place around him, it would not be too surprising to see if convinced to stay for at least another season as Everton look to build towards Champions League football.

If he does decide to leave, however, there will be another massive influx of cash, with talk suggesting that Everton could be holding out for a world-record fee for the Belgian hitman, as the Mirror have recently reported..

Elsewhere, there has also been a major long-term success for the Toffees this season, as they received approval from the Liverpool City Council to commence construction of a new £300 million, 50000-seater stadium to boost matchday attendances and atmosphere. They still need a lender, with a Chinese consortium linked by the Liverpool Echo in recent days, as they hope to have the stadium ready by or before 2022.

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In the short-run, however, Ronald Koeman and Director of Football Steve Walsh have already drawn up their plans for the summer window as they look to strengthen the side even further with qualification for the Champions League being their main aim next season.

Burnley’s Michael Keane, as per the Liverpool Echo, and Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford, say the Daily Star, are being targeted to improve the Toffees’ options at the back. Keane looks increasingly likely to leave Turf Moor this summer, while Pickford deserves Premier League football next term, with Sunderland all-but relegated to the second tier. A move for the two early in the transfer window looks like a real possibility.

For now, Everton have had a successful first season under Ronald Koeman and approach the end of the campaign with several positives. Romelu Lukaku’s contract situation seems to be the only aspect troubling them as of now and they will need to sort it out as soon as possible once the season comes to an end. Better times are arriving at the club, and the Everton faithful can certainly look to the future with great optimism.

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