Andre Villas-Boas and his players know that even if Tottenham Hotspur manage to finish fourth this season, it is going to take a big effort to get there again next year.
Several clubs share similar aspirations, ensuring plenty of competition between seasoned top-four campaigners and dreamers alike in the coming season.
The difference-maker, especially for the more aspirational of the bunch (like Tottenham, rather than the genuinely successful Manchester United), is the work done in putting together a squad for the season in the summer transfer window.
Back in March, this writer wrote about what Spurs and Villas-Boas' biggest transfer objectives for the summer might be.
Little has changed in regards to some of those suggestions.
A backup goalkeeper to challenge Hugo Lloris and replace the aging Brad Friedel is still needed. As too is competition on the wings—though Andros Townsend has only helped his own prospects with his impressive performances at Queens Park Rangers.
The need for reinforcements at left-back, strengthening what has been an occasionally porous defense, remains. There have been, though, some intriguing developments and rumors in relation to the position.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto's assertion in an interview with The Guardian's David Hytner that he "would be quite happy to see out my playing career" at White Hart Lane was a statement not in keeping with previous rumors (like this Daily Mail story) surrounding the player.
Should this be Assou-Ekotto's intention, Villas-Boas has things to consider. Despite a subpar season by his standards, the Cameroon international remains a talented full-back. But with the returning Danny Rose having given the manager food for thought on loan at Sunderland, now might be deemed the time to cash in on Assou-Ekotto.
Then there was the rumor, in The Mirror, of a swoop for Everton's Leighton Baines. Given the article's brevity, it might just have been a case of a newspaper filling up column inches. The idea of Spurs looking elsewhere for a left-back is not to be dismissed if Villas-Boas can identify a target he believes improves the position.
A similar situation is brewing further up the pitch. An outright creative midfielder has been on the club's shopping list since Luka Modric departed. Joao Moutinho (as shown in this story in The Mirror) and Wesley Sneijder (demonstrated by this report on ESPN.co.uk) have been among the standout names linked with Spurs at various points.
In many respects, Mousa Dembele has filled the void left by the Croatian, but there is still a feeling the team could benefit with some extra creativity when the influential Gareth Bale is unavailable or underperforming.
Spurs possess some fine players in this department. Younger guys like Lewis Holtby and Tom Carroll may yet step up and alleviate some of the pressure placed on the aforementioned players.
What is certain is that Spurs do not have someone at the level of a Juan Mata or a David Silva who can pull the strings like they do. It is a player of that pedigree that might be needed for Spurs to truly match teams like Chelsea and Manchester City, rather than just threaten them.
Then there is the Tottenham attack.
Spurs' need for a top-class addition to their front-line weaponry has been apparent for some time (and much discussed). That has not changed.
Emmanuel Adebayor's recent resurgence has certainly reinforced the argument as to why he might be kept. As someone who has been suggested as possibly being sold to make room financially, it means things might not be too clear-cut for Villas-Boas here.
The Portuguese will be attempting to find a balancing act between strength in depth and the personnel that will make for a viable and cohesive strike-force.
Any potential target will be judged in accordance to how they fit in Villas-Boas' plans for his team. Considerations here include the formation he ideally would like to progress with and how they might fit alongside the "star-man", Bale.
The legitimacy of some of speculation relating to these names, and others, will become apparent soon enough. The transfer window does not officially open for some weeks yet, but for all intents and purposes, business gets done as soon as the Premier League season finishes.
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