When it comes to final league places, some teams truly do achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.
Manchester City, as much as it leaves a bad taste to say it, are a team that have achieved greatness over the past year. True, they've done it through liberal delving into apparently unlimited coffers, but they've also done it through ambition and a single-minded focus on getting what they need to achieve their goals. They knew at the start of the season that they needed an established and respectable left-back, and they went out and bought one off of a top club. They knew they needed a couple of marquee signings to demonstrate what they intended to do in the league this year; they went out and snatched up Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri.
Ethics aside, a part of me would begrudgingly understand if an Edinson Cavani type joined them this transfer window on account of the ambition they've been showing this season. These costly ventures paid off with a mercurial run of form that sees them in first. The backdrop to this, of course, is that they were already defending a Champions League place, the achievement of which depended to a great extent on the big-name signings they made in 2010 in figures such as David Silva. Put it all together, you have the picture of a team that has ram-raided unapologetically into the top four and has taken every possible measure to stay there.
By contrast, as much again as I hate to say it, Tottenham have often looked throughout the same period of time like a club which has had greatness thrust upon it. This is not to knock the incredible progress we've made under Harry Redknapp and before, nor to deny that our players have played their hearts out and that those who run the club have demonstrated that they have it's best interests at heart. But think, for a moment, where we were this time last year. Spurs finished December 2010 in 5th place, one point behind Arsenal in 4th. We were overachieving in our first ever outing in the Champion's League, and all signs pointed to the possibility of getting back into it. All we had to do was step up a gear and prove that we deserved to be there, rubbing shoulders with the giants. And who did we end up buying during the following window? Steven Pienaar and Bongani Khumalo. Economical, but not inspiring.
Our failure to grab the top four by the balls, the sense of missed opportunity, bit almost immediately. We suffered injuries and didn't have enough deep-running quality in the squad to stay the course. Rather than stepping it up a notch, we stagnated. We finished 5th, a place a lot of us felt was a disappointing if unlucky conclusion to one of our most entertaining seasons yet. Most disheartening of all was the constant reminders from both the players and manager that the squad was aiming for the Champion's League as a key priority; rarely in the months that followed that transfer window did we look like real contenders. We hadn't taken the steps to show it, and a result the players didn't seem like they wanted to live up to it.
This season, we have every chance to do what City did this year. We find ourselves in third having enjoyed some of the best form I've witnessed in all my time as a fan. But it could all mean nothing unless we entrench ourselves there. We don't need to do it like City and go out and buy the most exciting striker in Europe for silly money. But we do need to strike fast, and early in the transfer market and flex our muscles.
The time will never be better. Manchester United have looked like a wounded animal since their 6-1 drubbing to their rivals, always on the backfoot trying to work out where the rot is that's stopping them from producing the best possible results. There's every chance that Ferguson's stubborn resolve to make stars out of his young players will stop United making a megabucks signing that would propel them up and away from us in the league. Liverpool have failed to capitalize on pretty much every opportunity presented to them thusfar and are suffering internal problems of their own. Wenger's refusal to upgrade his first team with the loss of Nasri and Cesc Fabregas have left them in a position where they're constantly chasing at our heels. Villas-Boas is underachieving at Chelsea, seemingly paralyzed by the dilemma of how to blend the old guard with his new ideas for the club.
This is the time to take the steps that ensure we take, rather than receive, our place in the top four, even a shot at running off with the league. Levy's brinkmanship leading up to the signings of Adebayor and Parker caused a quiet revolution at the start of the season; I do not want to see this approach again. No more last-minute hole patching and most importantly, no more keeping the media and fans in the dark as to what we're doing and where we're going. This is it; this is the key to finishing high this year. Everyone needs to see what Spurs are doing right now, and what we want to be doing for the rest of the season. People don't have to marvel at how much cash we have- just at how swift, clinical, and clever we can be.
An exciting striker to keep the goals coming and stop us from pinning all our hopes on Ade. A commanding centre back to ensure we have the steel to resist the big guns. A new presence to keep us ticking over in midfield, a big name but not big enough to see us getting gouged £30m for them- think Riccardo Montolivo. A young keeper for next year, to show that we're in this for the long haul. We may not need these proposals- but any one of them would be a statement of intent. Put simply, the club owes that to the players. To match the very high bar that they've set on the pitch on the business side of things. To inject the extra bit of motivation we so lacked during that aforementioned mid-season stagnation last time out for them- it's nothing less than they deserve for their hard work so far.
Aggression rather than silent determination. Ambition rather than caution. Gambling a little and being sorry rather than opting for safety and being sorry. Let's make magic rather than excuses. Dan Levy doesn't need to show off his chequebook excessively this window and break the bank doing so to make a point- but he does need to slap the top four round the face with it so hard they see his face at night when they close their eyes. It needs to be fast, and it needs to be faff-free. We need a Suarez, a Damiao- someone who can take us to the next level and then have years left in the tank when we arrive there. Harry might not know who Ganso is, but if he wants us to be looking down rather than permanently up at our closest rivals he needs to get Googling, and fast.