Tottenham's shocking 2-1 loss to Newcastle at White Hart Lane confirmed something I predicted at the beginning of the season: Tottenham will not be in the top four of the Premier League. Their main rivals for third and fourth place (assuming Chelsea and Manchester City are out of reach) are Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. They each have had a difficult start, yet all of them are still ahead of Tottenham.
Liverpool and Manchester United have structural problems, whilst Arsenal appear to have one player too many out of form, yet you'd bank on them all sort out their problems long before Tottenham sort out theirs, which is simply a shortage of quality.
Add into the mix Southampton and West Ham being hellbent on defying their pre-season odds and Everton regaining form, Tottenham will find it harder than ever to finish inside the top four. For this reason they should be grateful winning the Europa League is now another avenue to qualify into the Champions League.
Critics might point out giving up on the automatic birthright to the Champions League that is a top four finish is risky, especially only after nine games. But the odds Tottenham face are far more severe than in recent history. Last season Tottenham were cut adrift in sixth place as the top four were in a league of their own and took turns in battering Tottenham to prove so.
In prior seasons, Tottenham's only real consistent rival for a top four position was Arsenal. Yet each year they failed to finish beyond their North London rivals. Since then, Arsenal have improved, whilst Tottenham have dipped beyond their peak. Now, with several contenders for the top four, Tottenham's odds have been slashed. There is simply no sense in going all out for the Premier League and ending up in 7th place.
Instead, Tottenham should treat the Europa League as their holy grail. Such a decision will of course see their domestic form dip, however, they are far too good of a team to ever be in a relegation battle. At worst they'll finish the season in higher echelons of the lower half of the table (11th-13th), but would that really matter if it booked them a place in next season's Champions League?
That theory then begs the question: just how likely are Tottenham to win the Europa League? The answer to that is quite. Last season's winners, Sevilla, will undoubtedly go down as the favourites. Of course, you have to be wary of the Champions League entrants. Juventus, Liverpool and Roma/Manchester City are all flirting dangerously with an early exit from the Champions League and into the Europa League knockout stages. Aside from that, Tottenham will fancy their chances amongst the very best in the Europa League.
The question Spurs fans have to ask themselves is: what is the difference between 7th and 13th? The answer to that: apart from TV money, nothing.