Chelsea lost their 100% record in South Wales, but there were positives to draw from the performance, chiefly the two-goal contribution of Diego Costa. The Spanish international went off the boil last season and was a liability every time he stepped onto the pitch. There were reports linking him with a return to Atletico Madrid over the summer and the player himself was keen on a move away from Stamford Bridge. However, Antonio Conte has managed to revitalise the striker and the side are reaping the rewards.
There are still doubts about his aggression on the pitch, as his actions can overstep the mark. That was seen on Sunday, as the 27-year-old clashed with Jordi Amat and reacted angrily to some of the decisions made by the referee. He could have been sent off in three of the four matches this season. Although it is impressive that he finds a way to avoid being sent off, it is surely a matter of time before he is and the striker needs to improve that before it is too late.
Under Conte, the Brazilian-born striker looks like a completely different player and he is thriving in his new role. In the 4-1-4-1 being used at the moment, Costa has the freedom to drop into the pockets of space in front of the defence and his movement has hugely improved since last season. He is perfect for the lone striker role, as he is adept at holding the ball up, while he is capable of influencing the play, as shown by his two key passes against Swansea.
It was his goal threat that stood out most at the Liberty Stadium, as he was dangerous throughout. It was clear that his past record in the fixture was playing on the minds of the defenders, as they looked nervy every time the Chelsea striker had the ball in the final third. Last season, Costa didn’t look confident in front of goal and rushed chances that came his way. That hasn’t been the case during the first four matches and he now looks like the player that fired Chelsea to the 2014/15 title.
The opening goal showed his clever movement, as he arrived late and found space on the edge of the area, before placing the ball past Fabianski. It was good to see him opt for placement over power and emphasised the confidence that is radiating from his game at the moment. His second goal was an incredible bit of skill and athleticism as he scored with a scissor kick to equalise.
He should have scored another in the game, as the ball came to him a few yards out, but he couldn’t sort his feet out in time. This chance came when it was 1-0 and it would have been easy for him to lose confidence. However, the striker didn’t let it have an effect on his game and that is a positive sign for the season ahead. Costa is currently the joint top scorer in the league and if he stays fit, there is no reason why he can’t challenge for the golden boot.
The return to form of Diego Costa is worrying for the other 19 teams in the division as he is world class when he is channelling his aggression correctly. The combination of Costa and Conte looks to be a match made in heaven. Although there is a risk that the two fiery characters could clash, the new manager has helped Chelsea’s number 19 to find his form again and he must be applauded for that. Despite the disappointing loss, the Blues will be competing for the title if Costa can play at this level consistently.
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