Note: This article was written before the 0-0 draw against Boro.

As part of our guest writers slots, we work with small blog writers to showcase their work.  Todays is from Craig Hoyland and you can view his blog here: https://craighoyland1.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/a-test-of-progression-for-everton/

A Test Of Progression For Everton

Everton will be looking to extend their unbeaten Premier League run to eight games with a win over Aitor Karanka’s struggling Middlesborough side at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.

The game v Boro signals the start of a run of five games for Everton, Middlesborough(A) Sunderland(H), Tottenham(A), West Brom(H) & Hull(H), in which Ronald Koeman will be expecting to earn a decent haul of points to add to his sides current total of forty and mount a serious challenge for European places. Everton currently sit in 7th, five points behind Manchester United in 6th place, 6 behind Merseyside rivals Liverpool in 5th and Koeman knows that his side have to take full advantage against the teams that currently find themselves at the wrong end of the table and struggling to maintain a run of form, especially when you consider that three of the five teams Liverpool have to face over the same period are Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City.

2017 has seen Liverpool struggle, exiting two cup competitions and picking up just three Premier League points, momentum is certainly on the side of the blue half of Merseyside and its easy to see how maintaining their current level of consistency over the next five games could see Everton move in to the European places and highlight the progress that Ronald Koeman and his squad have made since the Dutchman came to Goodison Park.

Premier League form table based on 2017 results

But why stop at Europa League places? If Manchester United and Liverpool are catchable then why not Arsenal? Their last two fixtures have seen The Gunners struggle at the Emirates against Watford, resulting in a 2-1 defeat, then get completely outclassed by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge and now face Liverpool and Manchester City in their next five games, as well as what could be a testing away game at an in form West Brom. Add into the mix the fact that Arsenal are only one point clear of Liverpool, could this be the season that Arsenal finish outside the top four for the first time in twenty one years?

Everton’s next five games will be a genuine test of their progression under Ronald Koeman and id even go as far as saying potentially season defining. Middlesborough, Sunderland and Hull are all sides you would expect the blues to beat comfortably but they are all embroiled in a relegation dogfight, they’re all fighting for Premier League survival and this can prove to be dangerous, especially if complacency were to rear its ugly head but i wouldnt expect a Ronald Koeman team to fall victim to that. In the past, Everton have excelled at failing to grab an opportunity and make the most of it but over the last seven games, Ronald Koeman seems to have rejuvenated what was an Everton side that seemed destined to finish the season as best of the rest, an accolade that ultimately has no reward,  but with the emergence of Tom Davies together with the additions of Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman in the January transfer window, Everton are now serious contenders for European places which would be a major improvement when you consider that for the previous two seasons under the leadership of Roberto Martinez, eleventh was the best we achieved. But to get there, to get our noses over the line against all the odds, now has to be the time when Everton stop dropping points in games we should be bossing, start turning hard fought draws into wins, give the fans a reason to blow the dust from our passports and actually make it happen!

15th May, 1985, European Cup Winners Cup Final Everton 3-1 Rapid Vienna

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