By Karl Matchett.


Football changes at pace, especially in the high-intensity glare of the Premier League. One week you can be potential title challengers, the next, well, as Chelsea will attest to, almost too embarrassed to label yourselves being in a relegation fight. 


Those extremes perhaps don't quite extend to Tottenham Hotspur, but there were plenty who, a few short weeks ago, had tipped Spurs as being an alternative option for the league title this season, with Manchester City stuttering, Manchester United boring and Chelsea nowhere to be seen.


Arsenal and Spurs, then, made for good headlines in a title fight.


At the start of December, with Tottenham on a 13-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, manager Mauricio Pochettino said: "If the people believe we are contenders I am happy because we have shown enough quality for that. Agree or not agree we want to win the next game and take the three points. I always believe in my squad and my players. I believe we can win."


That came after impressive wins against the likes of Manchester City and West Ham United and routine Tottenham Hotspur Home Shirt 2015 - 2016swatting-asides over relegation fodder Aston Villa and Bournemouth. Big-game wins, flat-track bullies. Both are required for title form.


Since then, though, it hasn't quite gone to plan. A home 0-0 draw with Chelsea now actually looks like an opportunity lost, as does the derby draw at the Emirates when Spurs led for most of the game. Another draw at West Bromwich Albion and a home defeat to Newcastle United last time out further negate any claims of Spurs being anywhere near good enough to lead a title charge-they've won one of their last five in the league and sit three points off the top four.


Sitting that far outside the top four this season given Spurs' own ability to continuously build this summer, without turmoil or unwanted sales, is a statement of their own failings. The Premier League's overall inconsistency this season offers hope and opportunity for someone to make an unexpected charge higher in the table than usual, but it certainly isn't the white half of North London who are doing it.


Manchester United haven't won in three. Manchester City have drawn one and lost two of their last five. Arsenal have only won two of five. With that sort of regularity in dropping points, Spurs should have been closing the gap-but they're a further point back now than they were when Pochettino made his title comments.


There can be no doubt that under his leadership the team has improved, both in its defensive consistency and in their overall shape and way of playing, but that seems to be at the expense of a completely ruthless streak. There is no great aggression in the side, neither in terms of physicality nor in mentality. Of course the odd player bucks that trend, but the overall outlook of the squad is still one glancing up at the stars, rather than being filled with them.


Spurs' next game, away to Southampton, is one they should be winning. Saints would have been seen by many at the start of the season as a threat to the top four, but their form and style has been woefully Spurs Away Shirt 2015 - 2016lacking of late.


Already out of the Capital One Cup to rivals Arsenal, facing Premier League table-toppers Leicester City in the FA Cup and with a genuinely tough draw in the Europa League against Serie A high-fliers Fiorentina, the top four of the domestic league is once again where Spurs' hopes for a successful season could end up being focused very on this term. Even if they overcome Fiorentina over two legs-a harsh draw given they did well to top their group, dismantling Monaco in the last fixture-there are myriad teams in the draw who are far better, more consistent and have greater firepower than Tottenham can offer. Their chances of winning the trophy in Europe this season are, in truth, low. Certainly lower than sixth favourites, which most bookies are rather generously placing them at.


Barring heavy investment on one or two genuinely top quality additions in January, there's simply no way Spurs have enough in their armoury to mount anything like a sustained attack on major trophies and even a top-four finish may be beyond them once again this season.


There are improvements under Pochettino, tangible ones in some aspects and merely patters of play and discipline which are evidential to anyone regularly watching themÂ…but those improvements have merely come at a pace whereby their major top-four rivals have also done enough to stay ahead.


Nobody stands still and waits for you to catch up in the Premier League, and Tottenham still have a way to go to be able to break into the elite group at the top.