It has been firmly established that Tottenham remain a sizeable distance short of this country's top teams. If the rather rash decision to sacrifice a top European coach in Andre Villas-Boas and replace him with Tim Sherwood wasn't proof enough of this then the recent defeats to Manchester City and Arsenal certainly is.

Sherwood's Spurs are now embroiled in a fierce battle for fourth place with Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United and it's a battle that will decide Sherwood's future at the club. If he emerges the winner and the club claims a spot in the Champions League then he will keep his job. If he doesn't, his future at White Hart Lane will have become untenable.

For many supporters, especially those who are yet to warm to Sherwood, it has become a toss-up between Champions League football next season or a new manager in the summer, with Louis Van Gaal still linked with the position. What would you choose? It's difficult. Being so inexperienced, even if Sherwood can claim Champions League football for Tottenham there will still be doubts over his capacity to take the club forward long term.

However, this Sunday's fixture with Everton will be an excellent measure of Spurs' and Sherwood's ability to achieve this aim. The heavy defeat to Manchester City was not such a game – Tottenham are a world away from them at the moment. Everton have had a strong season, with little to no expectation on them, and that freedom will remain to their advantage for the rest of the campaign. Spurs must beat them to regain total confidence in their ability to finish fourth.

On their side is the return of a number of key players including Jan Vertonghen, Paulinho, Mousa Dembele, Younes Kaboul and Andros Townsend, and the further recoveries of Sandro and Erik Lamela in the near future. However, a fully-fit squad will also bring up a problem for Sherwood. What to do with Nabil Bentaleb?

The Spurs head coach has more than proved his point with regards to the young Frenchman and there is now a plethora of midfielders available with far more quality and far more experience, even with the controversial departure of Lewis Holtby on loan to Fulham. Sherwood appears to have switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation, ditching his rejuvenating but ultimately precarious 4-4-2, and there ought to have been a place in this new set-up for Holtby. Yet there are still three players who arguably deserve a place in the team over Bentaleb, two of which are Paulinho and Dembele.

The third of these is Etienne Capoue. Even if rumours of laziness and unprofessionalism are to be believed, the France international's performances for Tottenham have all been impressive. Even if he is spending the working week sipping whisky with David Cameron you wouldn't know it when steps onto the pitch. Neither should he be indirectly labelled a limited 'defensive' midfield player either by not being selected.

No matter how much Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand despise the defensive midfield role, it does not take an ophthalmologist to see that Capoue has attacking power and craft. Tottenham's future may count itself lucky Capoue was not sold in January, especially if a new manager ultimately does come in for next season.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho all but defacated over Sherwood and Ferdinand's theory that defensive midfielders are obsolete by fielding two of them in an awesome tactical masterstroke to defeat Manchester City at the Etihad on Monday night. Whether it makes them think twice about their opinions is doubtful but whoever the next manager is at Tottenham is likely to rue the loss of such a player as Capoue or the equally as brilliant Brazilian Sandro.