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We’re now eight games into the new Premier League season and notoriously poor starters Everton are sixth in the table having lost just once so far. Since arriving at the helm, Ronald Koeman has completely transformed the mood around Goodison Park and the Toffees will be quietly confident of sneaking back into the Europa League this season.

If nothing else, Koeman has brought confidence and hunger back to Everton’s style of play after Roberto Martinez’s lacklustre tenure at the helm. While the former Wigan Athletic boss was a nice guy, he just couldn’t cut it at the top level – and that is exactly where the Toffees aspire to be; Everton need a competent manager to guide them back to the top.

Ronald Koeman is just that. He has gained managerial experience at a number of Europe’s biggest football clubs, including but not limited to Barcelona, Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. At the end of the day, Koeman’s style and strategy suits Everton’s long-term plan a lot more than Martinez did and that is perhaps the main reason for their rise to prominence.

The Toffees signed a few players this summer but Koeman didn’t do much in the transfer market if truth be told. The arrivals of Ashley Williams, Maarten Stekelenburg and Yannick Bolasie have certainly helped to bolster the squad, as well as introducing some healthy competition for places – a key reason for Everton’s improvement as players must now strive to develop on a weekly basis.

Last season, far too many Everton stars were happy to just cruise by. Simply put, Koeman won’t allow it. While a few of Everton’s key personalities didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with Martinez, Koeman appears to have the full respect of the dressing room. If he doesn’t, the former Southampton boss is doing very well to keep these issues behind closed doors.

Romelu Lukaku was just one of those players who never really clicked under Martinez but he appears to be back to his brilliant and brutal best. The Belgium international has scored six goals in his last four appearances for Everton and his form will be crucial to their chances of finishing in the Europa League places this campaign.

With the likes of Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas responding positively to Koeman’s methods, Everton will find themselves creating plenty of opportunities – something that cannot be said of Martinez’s side last season. Barkley hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts to the new campaign but he is still young and that consistency will come. Meanwhile, Mirallas has been much-improved; recording a goal and an assist in six Premier League starts.

If you look at Everton’s next four fixtures, there are certainly points to be won and Koeman will be rallying his troops ahead of this particular run. Next up for the Toffees is a trip to Burnley before they host Slaven Bilic’s struggling West Ham United side at the end of the month. Following on from that encounter, a potentially difficult clash at Stamford Bridge beckons before Everton welcome Swansea City to Goodison Park.

Ultimately, Koeman will expect Everton to pick up seven points from these four fixtures, if not nine. The Dutchman has got the Toffees heading in the right direction and, given time, they could mature into an elite, top-six side. Watch this space; Everton are back and they mean business…

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