Tottenham Hotspur: Does Beating Fellow Also-Rans Count as Success This Season?

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Tottenham Hotspur: Does Beating Fellow Also-Rans Count as Success This Season?
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Up to now this season, Tottenham Hotspur have been just ahead of Everton.

Tottenham Hotspur welcome Southampton to White Hart Lane on Sunday knowing a win is a must if they are to keep their slim top-four hopes alive.

At the very least, victory would also aid Tottenham in consolidating a lesser-heralded achievement this season: being best of the rest in the Premier League.

Sang Tan/Associated Press
Spurs beat Southampton in December to record the first win of Tim Sherwood's time as manager..

Compared to another crack at Champions League football, it falls short of Spurs' ambitions for 2013-14. But in a year in which they changed manager midway through, and found alterations to the playing staff to be more disruptive than anticipated, remaining competitive as long as they have is not insignificant.

There is still work to be done beyond this weekend, though.

With games in hand over the North London club, Manchester United and particularly Everton could yet replace them in fifth place. Southampton are a little further behind but still have time to improve on their Premier League-era best finish of eighth (where they currently sit).

Liverpool away follow Saints on Sunday for Spurs, while a clutch of games against relegation-threatened teams thereafter should not be overlooked either.

As last season's champions, Man United falling as far as they have has understandably been a major storyline. Spurs too were always likely to be scrutinised if last summer's heavy spending (albeit balanced out by Gareth Bale's sale to Real Madrid) did not pay off.

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester United's David Moyes is the only manager to have come under more scrutiny than Tottenham's Tim Sherwood of late.

But the players could be forgiven for thinking their overall efforts have got something of a raw deal. Especially considering they have done a lot of what has been asked of them against the clubs below them in the division.

In comparison, Everton have gotten off lightly, charming onlookers with the on-pitch fulfillment of their manager Roberto Martinez's oft-chanted philosophical mantra:

The Toffees have done well in Martinez's first year in charge.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Spurs beat Everton 1-0 in February thanks to Emmanuel Adebayor's strike.

Less financially flush than some of their rivals, he has added sensibly to the existing squad (chiefly bringing in Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku on loan). The "right style" Martinez alluded to has been the quick-moving, passing football bringing the best out of players like Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman.

Yet, in direct competition, Everton failed to beat a Tottenham side who have gotten nowhere near the same praise.

If Spurs defeat Southampton this weekend, they will have won four of their six games against the aforementioned trio directly below them. The other two matches—draws away at Everton and at home to the Red Devils—they could and should have taken three points in too.

Being the best of the also-rans does not count as genuine success. But given the improvements each of the clubs likely to finish in the top-four have made, it is not to be sniffed at either.

Jon Super/Associated Press/Associated Press
Liverpool's top-four, title-challenging resurgence is testament to a job well done by manager Brendan Rodgers, but also their enduring might and size as a club.

Finishing fifth will mean Spurs have not finished below there since 2009. While four of those campaigns will have seen them miss out on the Champions League, it would still speak to a certain level of consistency that had been previously absent for several years in that part of the capital.

Heading into next season, it would give Tim Sherwood's team (provided he is still in charge) a foundation to build on. Cliched as that sounds, it is an apt metaphor for where Tottenham stand as a prospect in the Premier League.

They may not have matched the achievements of English football's current top sides—backed by Champions League-aided finances and still relevant traditional power—in recent times, but they are not so far removed it is beyond the realms of possibility.

Until then, though, the "best of the rest" status will have to suffice.

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