On the whole, it has been a fairly successful start to life at Goodison Park for new Toffees boss Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman, who joined Everton from fellow Premier League club Southampton this summer, has settled quickly on Merseyside and fans have, for the most part, enjoyed the first few months of the 53-year-old’s brief tenure.
Everton were held to a 1-1 draw at home against struggling Swansea City in their first game back after the international break and it isn’t about to get any easier for the Toffees as the busy festive period approaches. Difficult clashes with Manchester United, Arsenal and arch rivals Liverpool await in December and Everton will need to be resilient ahead of what could be a tricky month.
Fortunately, all three fixtures are at Goodison Park and fans will take plenty of confidence from their much improved home form under the Dutchman. Last season, the Toffees won just six home games under Roberto Martinez; and their poor results at home played a key role in his dismissal. Comparatively, Koeman’s men are unbeaten in six games at Goodison Park this year. Ultimately, their home form could make all the difference in the battle for European football and the Dutchman knows it.
Potentially awkward fixtures away at Watford, defending champions Leicester City and Hull City could wreak havoc with Koeman’s hopes of ending the calendar year in the top six. As of November 24th, Everton are seventh in the table; tied for sixth with Jose Mourinho’s United.
The Red Devils are susceptible under Jose Mourinho and the Toffees could pick up all three points when they clash at the start of December. However, Everton fans will do well to remember that the Premier League campaign is a marathon and not a sprint. If Koeman’s men beat United but drop points against the likes of Watford and Hull, their hard work will be undone.
At the time of writing, Everton are priced at 4/1 in bet365’s Premier League betting markets to finish in the top six this season. It won’t be easy but the Toffees have enough quality in their ranks to pip the likes of United or Tottenham Hotspur to the final Europa League spot and star striker Romelu Lukaku could be the difference maker at the end of the campaign.
The Belgium forward has already scored seven goals this season and he will have one eye on Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero at the top of the Golden Boot race. Ultimately, Lukaku is the key to Everton’s aspirations. If he continues to score goals, the Toffees will win matches. If not, it is difficult to envision just who will step up and take over the mantle as Everton’s main man upfront.
Koeman knows just how important Lukaku is to Everton’s style of play but the Toffees need to find a way to win when their iconic striker is struggling. The Dutchman has a unique way of getting the most out of his players and Everton fans will expect Koeman to work his magic in the coming months. If the Toffees fail to come up with a Plan B, their European dreams will go out the window.