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Koeman: Europa League Final will set standard for Everton

Manager’s comments from article for ESPN

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Everton manager Ronald Koeman will likely be in the crowd tomorrow for the Europa League Final between Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam in Stockholm, and he will be watching keenly as he prepares to lead the Toffees in his first European campaign with the Blues in just over two months.

In a piece written for ESPN FC UK, Koeman went on to speak about his ambitions for the club and what direction he would like to see the Toffees going next season.

For Everton, the Europa League will be something very much on our minds from the beginning of our pre-season on July 3, with a qualifying round to be played over two legs in the last week of July and the first week of August.

You cannot be 100 percent prepared in my opinion in just three weeks, but players need to have a holiday to clear their minds and to overcome the physical demands of a long and demanding season. They need to refresh themselves and build again for the campaign to come. It is a draining experience.

It will place particular demands on the whole of the squad and we did not need to be confronted by the world-class capabilities of players such as Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in our final Premier League game on Sunday against Arsenal to appreciate the level we will need to hit. You always try to get new signings in as quickly as possible, though the reality is that it's not always possible. But we need to improve, we need to strengthen, we need to rise to the challenge if we are to take the next step as a team and as a club.

Everton has a rich heritage and Evertonians are rightly proud of this. Historically, we are one of the most successful clubs in English football. But ambition is about the future and the goals we set for ourselves now as a club. The players here know the way we like to train and the intensity we demand from our training sessions every day. These are our standards presently and our objective is to get better still, to grow further and reach new heights.

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

He summarized the just-ended season, talking about the highs the Blues achieved.

While this season has been really positive in many aspects -- we secured the most home points in the Premier League era for Everton, the most home wins, the most goals at home -- we need more numbers in to be prepared for a long, tough campaign next season in the different competitions and we need more aggression in the team.

A clear objective will be to bring in players who will have more productivity. I expect that we can change that for next season. If we can do the business we want to do this summer, the team for next season will be really strong, I believe.

The expectations will be higher than before, too, but I accept this. This is the challenge I took on when I sat down with the Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright, and our major shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, and agreed to become Everton manager. This is a challenge we are prepared for. This is why we are here.

Koeman also talked about the two teams playing the Final tomorrow, adding how he expected the game to go and expounding on both teams’ strengths.

Of course, Manchester United and Ajax have genuine quality and pedigree, for they have been standard-bearers of European football for many decades. I am anticipating a great final. The money at Manchester United might outweigh the investment into this Ajax team, but the long-time investment in youth in Dutch football has propelled Ajax to the final, along with an adventurous, aggressive style which I like to see.

United are strong and they have formidable individual quality throughout their team. But they are not invincible. They do not press with high intensity from the beginning of the game to the end. They do it differently.

Ajax apply lots of pressure and inject real intensity into the game. I watched them in the first leg of their semifinal against Lyon when they won 4-1 and played fantastic. They were a great advert that night for Dutch football. This was football how I like to see it played -- pressing, pressing, pressing and they showed genuine quality, too.

For sure, Ajax have a great chance to win this game while United can show that they have reached the levels this season that everyone expects from them. It will be a really interesting final.

Everton fans will have mixed feelings after seeing their side finish seventh this season. While their home form at Goodison was very impressive, their dismal performances away from home and especially at the top six provided reason for worry. A sharp improvement in performances will be required next season against the weaker teams, with less of a capitulation when they travel to the top teams in the League.