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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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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Summer signing Josh Bowler finally starting to look the part for Everton

The summer signing from QPR is starting look the real deal for Everton.

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In the summer Everton made a number of new signings for the first-team, but what perhaps went under the radar was the improvements they made to the under-23 squad. One recruit signed with the future in mind was QPR attacker Josh Bowler.

As reported by Sky Sports, Everton paid the West London side £4.25 million for the talented winger, who signed a deal at the club until 2020.

He had previously played just 20 minutes of first-team football for QPR, so his signing did come as something of a surprise.

It is quite a financial outlay for a teenager and, looking at his statistics for the campaign, many Everton fans will be concerned he was a waste of money.

In 15 games for the Everton under-23s, the attacker managed to register zero assists or goals in what was an ultimately disappointing first season.

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However, in the recent 2-2 draw against Manchester United, Bowler summed up his season for the Everton youngsters.

The 19-year-old was easily Everton’s best player in the game. He tormented the Manchester United defence for 90 minutes with his direct style, pace and trickery. It was a tremendous performance which missed just two things, an end product and a bit of luck.

Bowler though is showing all the right attributes to become a future Everton star. After a slow start to the season, he has come into his own in the final weeks of the campaign and Everton fans can rightly start to get excited about their summer recruit.

What Bowler now has the perfect base to build on during the summer. He needs to bulk up a little to be a pertinent threat in the Premier League, which is where the summer can come in handy.

Staying fit and continued to improve are all Bowler really needs to do in order to prove himself a top talent in the Everton system.

At the moment, the trajectory is looking good for this 19-year-old talent.

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If Everton are serious about top four challenge they must battle rivals for Clement Lenglet

The Frenchman has been sublime for Sevilla this season and Everton need a new central defender.

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After a summer of investment Everton‘s aim for this season was to challenge for the top four. It was a bold and ambitious plan which failed miserably.

They spent much of the first half of the campaign in the relegation reckoning, sacked their manager and have now limped their way to the top-half playing a dreadful brand of football under the guidance of Sam Allardyce.

It is fair to say, Everton fans are not happy.

Next season, the challenge again will be to try and compete with the Premier League’s elite.

But if Everton are going to do that, they need to improve one area of their team drastically – the defence.

Ashley Williams has been woeful this season and Everton fans would happily see the back of him.

Phil Jagielka does his best, but age is starting to get the better of him. Michael Keane took a while to settle following his move from Burnley.

Meanwhile, Ramiro Funes Mori has been injured most of the campaign and Mason Holgate has had an inconsistent season.

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A new centre-back is a must and, if Everton are serious about challenging for Europe, it needs to be a top defender.

Plenty are about at the moment, but the one which springs to mind for Everton is Sevilla star Clement Llenglet.

He caught the eye of English football fans after shackling Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

The Frenchman has been in fine form for the club this season and now Lenglet is being linked with a host of clubs.

One such team is Liverpool, and with good reason. Lenglet has a release clause in his contract at Sevilla which stands at just €30 million (£26.25 million) – according to Marca.

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Considering the price paid for the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Alporte and John Stones after the past year that fee is an absolute bargain.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is expected to dig deep into his pockets again this summer as Everton look to mount a renewed campaign next season.

Beating the likes of Liverpool to Lenglet’s signature would be the biggest signal of intent yet that Everton are ready to push into the Premier League elite.

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Everton’s under-the-radar £6m signing Lewis Gibson is a star of the future

The England under-18 defender looks a star in the making for Everton.

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Everton’s under-23s brought their season to an end this week with a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. It was not the campaign they would have wanted, after the brilliant PL2 title-winning season of 2016-17. But with David Unsworth stepping up to first-team duties earlier in the season and plenty of their stars from that season sent out on loan or joining the Everton first-team is what always going to be a tough one.

But in the final weeks of the campaign one player who has really stood out as an exceptional talent is 17-year-old defender Lewis Gibson.

His signature may have slipped by some Everton fans in the summer. The Toffees brought the England under-18 international to Finch Farm from Newcastle United. The fee for the player, according to the Liverpool Echo, could eventually rise to £6 million, so he was clearly identified as a top investment for the future.

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He has certainly looked the part this season.

Gibson has played 16 times for Everton’s under-23s this campaign, playing at both his preferred centre-back position and left-back. The talented defender was a member of the England under-17 team that won the World Cup last summer and he now looks like he could be the next great hope from the Everton youth system.

This summer he turns 18 and, given the standard he has showcased in the under-23s, he could genuinely start pushing for first-team football at Everton from next term.

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With the defence still an issue for Everton, improvements are likely in the summer. But Gibson should not be simply overlooked just because of his tender years.

Whilst he should not be a Premier League regular it would be great to see Gibson get game time in the League Cup and maybe find his way into the matchday squad on occasions next term.

Everton should not rush the defender, but if you are good enough then you are old enough. Gibson is starting to look like he could be the future of Everton’s defence and should get some reward from next season.

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