In recent years "breaking into the top four" has generally meant finishing in fourth place behind Man. Utd, Chelsea and that other team from north London. This season the equation has shifted, with the relative newcomers Man. City heading the table and showing every indication that they will still be there at the end of the season. Spurs, for their part, now lie in third with a game in hand. The question is - how high can they go?
Harry Redknapp has his own thoughts on that topic:
"I don't want to say that we are going to win the league as everyone will get carried away but it is not impossible. If you believe in yourself and keep winning games you are going to do it. We are on a real good run and if we continue the form that we are in now we will win the league."
At the very least, holding on to that third spot is starting to look like a more than realistic goal. Chelsea are in the midst of a mini-crisis, Newcastle are now facing the sharp end of the fixture list, and Liverpool can't find any consistency. Spurs, by contrast, have taken 25 points from a possible 27 and are now fielding a side that is picking itself every week. Even the two substitutions that were made against Aston Villa had a predictable look about them - Defoe for van der Vaart and Sandro for Modric. It's looking like the rest of the squad will have to rely on cup competitions and the inevitable injuries and suspensions.
Of the thirteen players used on Monday night, the only one whose name might be written on the team sheet in pencil is Younes Kaboul. That is not to imply that Kaboul has done anything wrong. He has certainly played his part in the run of results and his commitment and effort cannot be faulted. Redknapp paid him a compliment - albeit a rather backhanded one - following his performance against Villa, saying "Kaboul was looking the player I thought he could be tonight." Kaboul's application has, however, always outweighed his ability. If he has a dip in form, he may find himself replaced by a player in whom, some might argue, those attributes are the other way round. William Gallas has something of a reputation as a disruptive influence but he does possess quality in abundance. It will be interesting to see if the manager decides to replace one French defender for another at the heart of the Spurs defence.
Kaboul and his colleagues were rarely troubled against Aston Villa and although the visitors might not have expected to leave the Lane with a win, they surely would not have anticipated being beaten with quite so much ease. After the game, Alex McLeish described their defending as "calamitous". Up front, the deadly Darren Bent was denied his customary two yard tap-in. Whatever their own deficiencies, however, Villa were utterly outclassed in every department by a side that has now got the winning habit. Perhaps Harry is not so far off the mark as some might think.