Three reasons why Chelsea would struggle without Diego Costa
Three reasons why Chelsea would struggle without talismanic striker Diego Costa in the Blues side
Injury worries underline over-reliance on striker
Since coming on board as Chelsea’s messianic striker, Diego Costa has been on a well-documented thrill-ride, scoring seven league goals for the Blues since his 15 July transfer from Atletico Madrid. A Stamford Bridge icon already, his presence as the spearhead of Jose Mourinho’s attack has transformed them from nearly-men into firm favourites to bag the title – and we’re only five gameweeks into the new campaign. It’s been a dream-like start to London life for the Spain international, and with matches on the horizon against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and a Manchester United side that continues to leak goals, the feisty forward is sure to see his tally rise between now and mid-November. Hovering over the talismanic striker’s excellent form in the Premier League, however, has been persistent injury worries. Despite gracing his new club’s game with a real focal point and an assurance in attack, Costa has had to contend with a niggling hamstring strain that has seen him be a doubt for several of their league encounters, something that The “Special One” has acknowledged. All in all, Chelsea are in danger of becoming over-reliant on his goals to see them through the season. Reflecting back on Sunday’s showdown against Manchester City at the Etihad, which saw the away side grab a 71st minute lead through Andre Schurrle also showcased just how pivotal Costa is with his general approach play, something that many might have missed with all his goals. Influential in the break-away goal instigated by Eden Hazard, he picked the ball up from a team-mate in the final third before smartly luring two City defenders towards him, weaving past them effortlessly in the process, his lay-off for Hazard out wide to cross was perfectly weighted; even his run into the box deserves praise as it drew the cover that allowed Schurrle to power home. Magic.
Drogba, Remy are not 20-goal-a-season men
Drafting in Didier Drogba as a free agent has yet to bear all the hallmarks of a managerial masterstroke, but time is still on the veteran Ivory Coast international’s side. Having featured minimally since rejoining the squad, the towering striker hasn’t been provided ample opportunity that he still has a home in the best league in the world. And although no-one can doubt his record for the Blues in the past, nor the fact that he still has goals in him at the highest level, it would be a step too far to suggest that the 36-year-old can carry this team in the same way as Costa undoubtedly can. Granted, he still has a major role to play in the squad and is a fantastic asset, especially considering he was brought in on a free, but he is not the player needed as their first-choice striker. Likewise, 27-year-old Loic Remy is not the world-class finisher that can guarantee 20 or more goals a season, despite the fact that he would have one of the best midfields in the league supporting and assisting him. His season-long loan from QPR at Newcastle United should stand him in good stead moving forward, but it’s difficult to imagine he could make the step up so quickly and easily. Taking everything into account, Mourinho would do well to scour the market ahead of January because they’ll need some extra assistance should anything go drastically wrong with Costa’s form or fitness.
Costa’s mentality is a priceless weapon
Sunday’s clash with the Citizens revealed a Chelsea side that needed their title rivals to self-implode before going ahead, and it was also an afternoon when the past came back to haunt Mourinho as old boy Frank Lampard managed to stun both sets of fans by snatching a dramatic point at the death. Perhaps most intriguing and revealing of all, though, was Costa’s hot-tempered altercation with Pablo Zabaleta that ended in the Argentine receiving his marching orders shortly after the hour mark. Victim to a rash challenge, he became incensed with the rough-housing he had got, and duly let Zabaleta know all about it. And although he received a yellow card for his efforts, his reaction was worth it and it once again proved his capacity to be a game-changer in all aspects of the phrase because he knew he had been mistreated and he didn’t mind giving the Sky Blues’ No4 an earful about it. In essence it’s not just his ability to create goals and space that mark him out as a crucial Chelsea player, it’s also his temperament and his psychology. Much like former Liverpool star Luis Suarez or current Reds star Mario Balotelli, the Brazil-born striker possesses a fiery mentality that is often targeted by opposition players in an effort to rile him up – something they see as a potential weakness – but so far he has dealt with any and all attempts with a positive approach – he’s not going to be bullied and he won’t be backing down any time soon, an attribute, along with his special talent, he shares in common with his enigmatic and cool-under-pressure boss Mourinho. Coincidence?