Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill believes the Midlands club's season will still be a success even if they finish lower in the final league table than last year.
Villa were sixth last term and still harbour hopes of finishing in the top four this season.
However, they could well end the campaign out of the top seven and the European qualification places such is the congested nature of the top third of the Premier League table.
"At the start of the campaign, we looked back and we had finished sixth in two successive seasons, players were improving with the club and for the club - and that was great," O'Neill told the club's official website.
"Now what happened is Manchester City stepped into the forefront of events and made it exceptionally difficult for sides.
"Tottenham have improved enormously in every aspect of the football club so they were going to become big players.
"I wish life was as simple as 'you finish 11th one season, 10th the next time and then ninth, eighth, seventh, sixth and then on to winning the championship.' It's not like that. There's no such thing.
"People talk about five year plans and that type of stuff. All you can do is try and improve the side year on year.
"The side has been terrific this season and we might not even finish in the position we finished last season."