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The Chelsea File: What Lies Ahead

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Fifteen matches and 45 possible points.

That’s what lies between Chelsea and its fifth Premier League title of the 21st century.

The Blues’ nine-point lead over chasing Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal — 10 over Liverpool — isn’t insurmountable, but the odds are very much in their favor.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s PL roundup ]

There is no Champions League on the docket for Chelsea this season, and even a run deep into the FA Cup would be met by forgiving PL fixtures on the docket (See bottom of post for remaining Chelsea schedule).

That’s why this Saturday, at home to Arsenal, is potentially the defining moment of the rest of our run through the Premier League season.

The Gunners outfoxed Chelsea the last time around, when Mesut Ozil and company dropped three first-half goals on the Blues en route to a 3-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea sat eighth after that game, but we know what happened next: 13-straight wins for Antonio Conte and the Blues.

Perhaps, then, it’s fitting that a win over Arsenal on Saturday would all but slam the door on the idea of anyone catching the Blues. Spurs would be at least nine points back, and Liverpool would be at least 10. Neither have Chelsea left on the schedule.

However, an Arsenal win would close the gap between the sides to six points. With Spurs playing Middlesbrough and Liverpool facing Hull, it wouldn’t be absurd to have all four teams within seven points of the top.

What a difference 90 minutes can make.

Chelsea fixtures

Saturday – vs. Arsenal
Feb. 12 – at Burnley
Feb. 18 – FA CUP at Wolves
Feb. 25 – vs. Swansea City
March 6 – at West Ham
March 11 – FA CUP quarters*
March 13 – vs. Watford
March 18 – at Stoke
April 1 – vs. Palace
April 5 – vs. Manchester City
April 8 – at Bournemouth
April 15 – at Manchester United
April 22 – vs. Southampton
April 22-23 – FA CUP semis*
April 29 – at Everton
May 6 – vs. Middlesbrough
May 13 – at West Brom
May 21 – vs. Sunderland
May 27 – FA CUP final*

*if necessary

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 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 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?

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).