Ronald Koeman believes Everton can achieve "something special" this season, but is refusing to look past his side's visit to Middlesbrough on Saturday (11 February). Everton's recent form of six wins in their last nine games has seen them close the gap on Manchester United, who lie in sixth, to just five points.
Koeman, not one for exaggeration or overstatement, thinks it is possible for Everton to catch Manchester United, but believes the best way to be successful is to focus on the next game, not what comes after.
"Everything is possible," Koeman said in his pre-match press conference. "Everyone knows the Premier League is tough and it's not about the opponent what you need to play, look at Hull City, they play Manchester United away, Liverpool home, they have four points out of that. Our game on Saturday is maybe more difficult than Tottenham away. The best way to be successful is to always focus on the first game. Don't look further because it's not important now.
"I think the team is stronger than what it was, it's up to everyone to show that we have ambition and are getting better and fighting for titles, it's tough to come through the big six teams but I'm convinced we're going in a good direction.
The former Southampton boss knows how easily Everton could fall away from the coattails of the top six and is aware of the threat upcoming opponents Middlesbrough pose. Aitor Karanka's men are currently fighting for their Premier League lives and have won just one of their last 10 matches, but Koeman says he would prefer to play Arsenal than the struggling Teessiders. The Dutchman has faced Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger 12 times times during his managerial career, and only lost twice.
The Barcelona legend also spoke about the strong physical conditions of his teams and believes that will stand Everton in good stead as they attempt to achieve something special.
"It's step by step, don't make the mistake because if we don't win we'll talk about the top eight." added Koeman. "We need to be realistic, the target now is the team above us, but it starts by yourself winning the game. It's not about fixtures. Sometimes I prefer to play Arsenal than Middlesbrough.
"My teams are normally good physically until the end of the season, and that's important as it gives you more chance to win the game. At Southampton out of the last eight matches we won seven, if we do that at Everton something special will be possible this season."