MUCH is made of the 'Top Six' sides in the Premier League. The shuffling of fortunes that brings league titles and Champions League qualification to a lucky few. But what constitutes the top six is a bit of a moving feast.
Generally, the cabal is acknowledged to be made up of Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Every now and again, this hegemony is tested by usurpers like Wolves and recently West Ham. And most successfully of all Leicester City.
Some include Everton and Aston Villa in the list. Two large clubs with significant followings. But this idea is usually let down by their lack of current success.
To that end, some might suggest that Spurs should not be on the list either. Their most recent title triumph was the 2008 League Cup win. The last FA Cup triumph was 1991. European success was last enjoyed in a UEFA Cup win in 1984, while league glory has not been seen in that part of north London since 1961.
To be fair, in recent years, Spurs have walked the walk of a big club. Regular top-four finishes and a Champions League final in 2019, along with the construction of the most impressive modern stadium of any sport in the UK, had copperfastened Spurs' position at the elite's top table.
But little did we know, that the Champions League final in Madrid against Liverpool would be the high-tide mark for the club. And an immediate decline seemed to kick in just when everything looked to be going so well. Starting with the departure of then manager, Mauricio Pochettino, just six months after that European final.
Three managers later (including the 'Special One' Jose Mourinho), and Spurs fans looked confidently to the arrival of Antonio Conte three months ago. Conte's credentials of success in Italy and at Chelsea spoke for themselves and with it the hope that Spurs had finally turned that corner of adversity.
After an initial bounce under Conte, Spurs have only managed to win only two league games since January. As well as an embarrassingly tame exit from the League Cup at the hands of Chelsea.
Spurs are now wallowing in eighth place in the Premier League with any hope of Champions League qualification realistically wiped out.
The scale of the challenge ahead for Conte and Spurs became even starker in light of a recent interview Conte had with sports media in Italy, where he made it clear that he disagrees with Tottenham's current plans and aimed a not too concealed dig at club owner Daniel Levy's unwillingness to buy the talent the Italian manager desires. It was the interview of a frustrated man. Considering how slow Levy is willing to part with his money for transfers, one can only imagine how embittered Conte will be, come May.
The interview, with Sky Sport Italia, saw Conte say: “When you take the job in a team that hasn't won for a long time it is inevitable that you will lack confidence.
“I saw some situations from the outside that could be developed, but when you get into it, you realise something…
“What happened in January is not easy. Four players left in January. Four important players for Tottenham, two have arrived. So even numerically, instead of reinforcing yourself, you may have, on paper, weakened.
“The vision, the philosophy of the club is this. It is inevitable that if you want to grow faster and if you want to be competitive more quickly you need players with a lot of experience because they also lead to an increase in experience in your team.
“But then again, the vision of the club I realised is this and will continue to be this.”
Conte's frustration is understandable. At the same time as the club failed to fulfil his transfer wishes, he saw the club’s two most expensive players — Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso – leave on loan, Dele Alli join Everton on a free transfer and Bryan Gil leave for Valencia less than six months after his £25million arrival from Sevilla.
Spurs face champions, (and some say champions-elect) Man City in this evening's televised game at the Eastlands.
A few short years ago this would have been a tantalising top-six fixture. With Spurs expected to give City a run for their money, even away from home. Remember, Spurs were the side that killed Man City and Pep Guardiola's Champions League dream back in 2019. Nowadays, you just hope that Spurs won't be at the end of a drubbing similar to what City handed out to Sporting Lisbon midweek in the Champions League.