Koeman rallies Everton to leapfrog Arsenal and Man United

LONDON • Ronald Koeman believes Arsenal and Manchester United are bigger than Everton in name only, and has challenged his side to finish above the two English football giants at the end of this Premier League season.

Leicester's elimination from the Champions League on Tuesday in effect secured Europa League qualification for Everton, who are seventh and 13 points clear of West Bromwich Albion in eighth. But while welcoming this, the manager insists that a fifth- or sixth-placed finish is a credible target.

The Dutchman said: "It's okay if people talk about Arsenal and Man United - the name is a bigger one but not how they play. We are showing that you can give good competition to the strong teams, the big teams, when they are not having a fantastic season.

"It's incredible that we have the same points now as Arsenal but that's football. It's not about money. It's about players, the team, organisation, about spirit, about belief."

Everton are level on 57 points with Arsenal and three behind United, having played two games more than both.

Koeman, who takes his side to West Ham today and Arsenal on the last day of the season, insisted the form of Arsene Wenger's and Jose Mourinho's teams offers Everton hope for a higher finish.

But if Everton are to climb the table, they will need to improve on their away form. The Toffees have not won any of their last five matches on the road. Yet they can be buoyed by Romelu Lukaku's record against the Hammers.

Lukaku - who tops the Premier League scoring charts with 24 goals - has netted in his last nine meetings against West Ham.

Hammers manager Slaven Bilic is wary of the danger that the Belgium striker poses. He told the club's official website: "He is an individual but he can do you harm. It's about the teamwork though... We have to stop the service and when it does come, to get close to him and double up on him." THE GUARDIAN

WEST HAM V EVERTON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Koeman rallies Everton to leapfrog Arsenal and Man United'. Print Edition | Subscribe