Three things we learned from Tottenham’s win vs. Chelsea

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Chelsea 2-0 at White Hart Lane on Wednesday as Spurs ended Chelsea’s incredible winning streak at 13, with the Blues falling one win short of setting the all-time top-flight record for consecutive wins in a single season.

[ RECAP: Spurs 2-0 Chelsea ]

Dele Alli scored two near-identical headers either side of half time to set Spurs on their way and the north London club never looked back and Chelsea never really threatened apart from dangerous counters at the start of both halves.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham are now back in the title race as they sit seven points behind leaders Chelsea, while Antonio Conte‘s boys will have to pick themselves and go again with their lead at the top now just five points and the chasing back hunting them down.

What a start to the second half of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]


RED-HOT ALLI

We thought Dele Alli was good last season…

Alli, still just 20 years old, ended Chelsea’s winning streak as his cleverly peeled away behind Chelsea’s center backs twice and beat Victor Moses to head home. Chelsea had not conceded a headed goal in the Premier League all season and Alli outfoxed them twice.

Alli has now scored a brace in each of his last three PL games and seven in his last four games. He is flourishing in a role behind Harry Kane and they’re on the same wavelength. Alli had a slow start to this season with just three goals from his first 15 PL games but now he is on fire and is showing increased maturity and calmness in and around the box which evaded him at times last season.

Earlier this week reports suggested that Real Madrid is lining up a $63 million bid for Alli. His recent form suggests such talk is not only worthy but the fee is also way below his true valuation.

Pochettino said Alli is going nowhere and believes he can become the best attacking midfielder in Europe for the next decade. It’s hard to argue with that and it’s hard to believe that Alli was playing for MK Dons in England’s third-tier just 18 months ago.


SPURS WIN WING-BACK BATTLE

Danny Rose and Kyle Walker got the better of Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso as both teams deployed wing backs. As the game wore on Spurs’ wide men were more adventurous and that led to Alli’s goals.

Twice Walker surged at Alonso and twice he cut the ball back to an unmarked Eriksen who whipped in delicious crosses to the back post. Moses was concerned about the onrushing Rose on both goals and left too much space for Alli to get in behind Cesar Azpilicueta and Spurs’ man of the moment capitalized on those defensive mistakes.

In the early stages Alonso and Moses looked better in attack with Walker and Rose reluctant to surge forward. A quiet word from Pochettino midway through the first half saw Walker push up higher on Alonso and he had plenty of joy for the rest of the game.

Chelsea have looked incredibly comfortable with the 3-4-3 formation but Tottenham looked even more snug as the most consistent full backs in the PL stepped up and nullified the main weapon which has seen the Blues take the PL by storm in recent months.


TITLE RACE WELL AND TRULY ON

Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and even Manchester United celebrated Tottenham’s win almost as fervently as Spurs’ fans on Wednesday.

The title race is back on.

With Chelsea rattling off 13 wins in a row and 16 wins from 19 before their derby defeat on Wednesday at Tottenham, the Blues looked capable of running away with the title this season.

Now, their lead has been cut to five points and Man City are also just seven points behind, while Arsenal is eight points back and Manchester United is 10 points.

Chelsea’s back-to-back games against Liverpool and Arsenal at the end of January and start of February are now looking  particularly pivotal in the title race if they drop points against Leicester an Hull before those massive clashes. .

The Premier League title race has been blown wide open by Tottenham’s victory.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

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Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

[ MORE: Everton wins Europa opener ]

Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).