Everton boss Ronald Koeman confident of kicking on next season

20 May 2017 01:09

Everton boss Ronald Koeman has emphasised he can handle the pressure of increased expectation and is relishing the challenges of next term.

What has been an encouraging first season under Koeman for the Toffees concludes with Sunday's Premier League trip to Arsenal.

Everton head into the contest guaranteed to finish seventh, a spot that gives them a place in the third qualifying round of the 2017-18 Europa League.

Koeman says planning for next season has already been ongoing for "two, three months", with him having had "several" meetings with the board in which potential moves in the transfer market were discussed.

And the Dutchman added: "If we can do our business this summer, the team for next season will be really strong.

"Normally, if you have a stronger team, then the expectations will be higher than before. But that's okay.

"That means more pressure for the players and, for sure, more pressure for the manager. But I know I can deal with the pressure, that's no problem."

Asked what Everton need to do to step things up given the way 2016-17 has gone, Koeman said: "We had a really strong home record, but I think we need to improve away, and we need to be more clinical, more productive.

"We know it is difficult - and playing in Europe next season will make it even more tough.

"But it is really a nice challenge for next season.

"It will be a new experience for some of the players, and of course we need to play two qualification rounds, and that is tough, because that starts after three and a half weeks of our pre-season (the first legs of the Europa League third qualifying round are scheduled for July 27).

"Let's wait to see what we can do.

"But we take it really seriously because we like to play in Europe. I think that is important for the club."

Everton face an Arsenal side who are fifth and in serious danger of missing out on a Champions League berth.

Arsene Wenger's men are one point behind fourth-placed Liverpool, hosts to Middlesbrough in their final game, and three behind third-placed Manchester City, who play at Watford.

While Wenger, in charge at Arsenal since 1996 and currently on a deal that expires this summer, has not yet announced if he intends to stay on beyond the end of this season, there have been protests from Gunners fans against the Frenchman remaining as manager.

Koeman has no doubt playing in the Europa League rather than the Champions League is "not good enough" for Arsenal.

"If City and Liverpool do the job, Arsenal will finish (in a place) for the Europa League, and that is not good enough for them - everybody knows that," he said.

"You know being the manager of clubs like Arsenal is always difficult (in terms of criticism).

"I think the time Wenger has been the manager of Arsenal has been really successful - he did really a good job.

"But you know these teams need to play Champions League. After a long time, maybe the people like to see a new face."

Since he arrived in English football as Southampton boss in 2014, Koeman has faced Arsenal six times and been victorious on four occasions, the latest being when Everton beat the north London club 2-1 at Goodison Park in December.

Source: PA