There are three games left in the English Premier League for the top three teams, and for the rest of the top six sides within touching distance of the Champions qualification spot –Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea –there are four games left.
However, what is significant about this is that while the two Manchester giants club it out, and while Liverpool are happy to be outside of this group because they have won one cup and are in the final of another, the FA Cup, there is a solid set vying for fourth in the EPL.
Arsenal look nailed on to keep hold of third, with their last three games coming against Stoke, Norwich and West Brom. Yet it is hard to separate Newcastle and Spurs. Chelsea come in just behind, but after the season they have had, they are at least guaranteed Europa League football next term because of competing against Liverpool in the FA Cup final and they may be spent after their Champions League exploits to date.
The Spurs situation is the interesting one, though.
Newcastle have shocked everyone and contemporary clichés like ‘Moneyball’ have been thrown around about them due to their bargain signings of Yohan Cabaye (just over £4m), Demba Ba (free) and Papiss Cisse (estimated at just over £9m). All have impressed this season, alongside captain Fabricio Coloccini, Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheik Tiote and Tim Krul.
The team have been able to counter punch and score some surprising, and incredibly powerful, quick-fire goals this season. They have won games through moments of magic and some of the attacking passing has been superb. No wonder Spurs are ruing the Toon’s latest surge.
Spurs have been displaced by Newcastle and now Harry Redknapp’s side are looking ragged. They have only won once in their last nine Premier League games and the cutting edge which saw them cut apart some sides at the start of the campaign looks to have deserted them.
A po-faced Redknapp has not been publicly criticized too harshly yet, but considering he was talking about challenging for the EPL title earlier in the year he may soon come in for some critical analysis.
Perhaps it is because the Euro 2012 competition is looming and already a large number of media outlets, soccer personalities and pundits have backed Redknapp to lead England in that competition. It would perceivably be unsettling to lambast their outstanding candidate now, so there is silence.
Alan Pardew and Newcastle are definitely in Europe in some guise next season. They deserve plaudits. By the same token, though, Spurs must be applauded for how they have played when they have been hot.
The difference between the two sides? One is on the up, pushing on from what they have achieved so far, while the other is living off of their earlier triumphs and hoping to turn things round. Euro 2012 must be ignored for now. Instead it must be pointed out that Spurs have spent too much money on keeping hold of big names like Luka Modric who has under achieved and are courting attackers while their defense looks shaky. William Gallas, Ledley King and Michael Dawson are not reliable or consistently fit enough to secure a top three place.
If Redknapp leaves for England duty, as suspected, he will be welcomed with open arms and all will forget the blips at Tottenham. He will be heralded as a savior. However, whoever succeeds him will face overhauling the back four (with the exception of Kyle Walker at right-back) and a shaking up of the attacking midfield options and who they stick up front.
Spurs have been hugely entertaining in season 2011/12 and they may still finish fourth. They had a chance to push past this, though, and instead they look weary and unenthused as Redknapp drags them to the finish line.