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Would anything lower than third be a disappointment?

It sure was nice to wake up this morning and see Tottenham in third-place following the win over Villa. Even better was seeing that extra game in-hand over every team around us. With that in mind, a majority of Spurs fans have become confident that a top three finish is possible. With the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all struggling for form and consistency, Spurs are currently the in-form team chasing a top four spot. But is that enough? To the Lane and Back assesses whether or not anything lower than a top three finish could be considered a disappointment. 

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Tottenham fans have ever been the optimistic bunch. Ever since the great Bill Nicholson’s famous quote “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.” was recorded into the etchings of history, the Spurs faithful have more often than not dreamt of trophies filling the White Hart Lane cabinet.

Since the opening day defeat to Manchester United, coupled with the 5-1 humbling at the hands of the current pace-setters Manchester City, the only way has been up for the North London giants. Both results highlighted the major need for some arrivals and in Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor, along with the early-window signing of Brad Friedel; Spurs are looking much more like a decent Champions League outfit.

After registering the first league win of the season over Wolves back in September, Spurs have been on an excellent run of form winning eight of the last nine, including the 2-0 win over the Black Cats. Such form has propelled them up to third place and, with it, the confidence that Spurs can finish there this season.

Earlier in the season, defender Younes Kaboul claimed that Lilywhites could in fact be London’s best team this campaign, a feat that would not only would confirm the power has shifted in North London between Arsenal and Spurs, but also see Harry Redknapp’s side finish above Chelsea for the first time since 1995.

At first, the claims were taken with a pinch of salt, especially considering it was back in September and Spurs had just registered only their second league win of the campaign and were gearing up for difficult away trip to Wigan Athletic. But, six wins and a draw following the Frenchman’s statement and the fans are starting to believe that the club could in fact achieve their highest place finish since the inception of the Premiership.

As things stand, Spurs currently occupy third-spot, level on points with Newcastle United, but with a game in hand over every team around them, they could be about to leave the Magpies and move to within one point of United in second, should they keep up their impressive form and win the game in hand over Everton in January.

Even more impressive, is the fact that top four rivals Liverpool and Arsenal currently sit three-points apiece behind Spurs while perennial title contenders Chelsea are struggling to find any form or rhythm are sat outside the top four, albeit, level on points with the aforementioned duo. Nevertheless, having played every team around them, bar the Blues, you would be hard pressed to find any pundit or fan who doesn’t consider them genuine top four contenders.

But is that enough? Having brushed everyone aside so far this season, bar both Manchester sides and Newcastle, confidence is beginning to reach fever pitch at White Hart Lane and last night’s win was a testament to the excellent football that is currently being witnessed in N17. Reminiscent to something off the training pitch, any pre-match nerves were comfortably quashed 14 minutes in when Adebayor opened the scoring before the Togolese forward doubled his tally and the advantage on the night, five minutes before half-time.

Granted, it should, and perhaps could, have been more but, with three points on the board, the win is all that matters. And it is exactly that win why Spurs fans should be confident of immediate success this season. The players looked unbelievably comfortable in possession throughout the game and even though Aston Villa won’t be the most testing of opposition this season, it was a decent enough trial to ensure the men on the pitch wouldn’t slip up when heading into games’ as favourites.

Even in wins where there has been ‘backs up against the wall’ finales, Spurs have held firm and ensured they have come away with the three points. It is these wins, coupled with last night’s 2-0 win over Villa that has seen many jump on the Tottenham top four bandwagon. But while top four is the aim for Redknapp, many believe a higher finish could well be on the cards. Should they keep up this form throughout the season, many have touted Spurs as potential top two finishers, especially with United, despite not conceding in their last five games in all competitions, not looking as strong as they have done in the past.

However, it is important that the players keep their feet firmly rooted to the ground. Spurs fans are often confident in their teams success, heck, it’s in our blood, but it is very, very easy to become arrogant on the pitch which, despite being a good thing, can often lead to a downturn in form. Off the pitch, it is pivotal Daniel Levy resist any temptation to sell off a number of there star players.

If they needed any more proof that doing so was the wrong direction to take, last night’s Villa side was more than enough. In comparison to the team that Martin O’Neill has almost taken to Champions League qualification, they looked a million miles away from the Irishman’s past plethora of players. With that in mind, it is of vital importance that Spurs qualify for Europe’s elite competition to stand any real chance of holding onto the likes of Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart.

Whether it is done by finishing fourth or above, it isn’t important as long as qualification is secured. And with the players available to Redknapp, you would be hard pressed to find a team that is in a better position to qualify for next year’s competition. But, will any fan be disappointed if it isn’t automatically? Naturally, yes. Automatic qualification will save the club from an unnecessary play-off game, similar to that of the Young Boys fixture last season. It will also generate more funds for the manager to bring in better players and pay higher wages.

Yet, qualification is the most important thing this season and if that’s done by finishing third, then great. Finishing fourth? Still great, at least Spurs will be back competing with Europe’s elite, and raising eyebrows across the continent much like they did last year.

Ben McAleer

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