LONDON (Reuters) - Three talking points from the Premier League after the penultimate weekend of the season.
When Jose Mourinho was named as Tottenham Hotspur manager after the shock sacking of Mauricio Pochettino in November, the reaction amongst the club’s fans was lukewarm.
Yet seven months on, the Portuguese is gradually winning them over, if not for the style of the football but for the fact that the team once again looks a cohesive unit.
Tottenham had won only three of their opening 12 games when Mourinho took charge and were 14th in the standings.
They are now sixth and while there will be no fifth successive Champions League campaign, they look like qualifying for the Europa League instead.
Initially, Tottenham lacked identity under Mourinho, but since the season’s restart, apart from one poor display against Sheffield United, they have looked solid defensively, powerful in midfield and dangerous on the counter-attack.
What is more, striker Harry Kane looks back to his best after four goals in the last two games, including a superb brace in the 3-0 win over Leicester City on Sunday, Tottenham’s fifth win in eight games and fourth in succession at home.
The final desperate weeks of a relegation battle are fraught enough, but the first season using VAR has added yet another layer of torment into the mix.
Spare a thought for Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe.
On Sunday he thought his team had scored a precious late equaliser against Southampton when Sam Surridge fired home. However, relief turned to despair when the goal was referred to VAR and chalked off for an offside decision.
Howe looked distraught as for the second time in the run-in his side had been denied a goal by the system, having had what would have been a late winner against Tottenham ruled out.
“We’ve had a couple of nearly moments. If that was scored last year it would have counted. It certainly hurt us psychologically in that moment,” said Howe, whose side will be definitely be relegated if Watford gain a point from one of their last two games.
The timing of Nigel Pearson’s parting of ways with Watford is bizarre, to say the least.
Hired in December with the club bottom of the table, Pearson has proved the club’s most successful manager in the Premier League in respect of win rate (35%).
While a capitulation at West Ham United on Friday left them still in danger of going down, the chances are they will just about hang on to their top-flight status and that would be in no small part to Pearson’s galvanising effect.
Watford host Manchester City on Tuesday when Hayden Mullins will be interim coach. They finish against Arsenal on Sunday.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge