Following a summer of speculation, as it seemed that Diego Costa was angling for a move away from Stamford Bridge, he has firmly put himself back in the good books of Chelsea fans with two last minute winners against both West Ham and Watford. Antonio Conte was desperate to retain the Spaniard, who suffered from poor form last season, as he tries to get back to his goal scoring best that he showed in 2014/15.
With two goals in two games, it is hard to complain about Costa’s return this season, but once again, in both games he has caused controversy with some tough, and very rough, tackling and some awful diving, which could have proved costly had he seen red in either of those games with Chelsea so far failing to look as convincing as many had hoped they would under the new management of Antonio Conte.
On Saturday, despite his match-winning striker with just three minutes of normal time to go, the 27-year-old left much to be desired. Whilst the Spaniard should be praised for his clinical finishing, one shot and one goal is a good ratio if nothing else, it will be a concern for Chelsea fans that the forward only managed one shot in 90 minutes against an average Watford side. Costa failed to create any chances, spending much of the game in a physical battle with the Watford defence, and threatened little before he finally took his only chance late on in the game.
With four attempted dribbles all unsuccessful and being dominated in the both aerial duels he faced on Saturday afternoon, Costa left a lot of room for improvement on a frustrating afternoon. What’s more, with only one successful pass in the attacking third all afternoon, and only two passes in a forward direction, the game plan for Costa was clearly a failure. His pass completion rate of 72% may not have helped to implement Conte’s plan, but with so few options for Costa to break forwards, these figures could alternatively represent a failure to give the Spaniard the support required to make an impact.
This may all seem harsh on Costa, if the game plan didn’t work, it wouldn’t entirely be his fault. However, when you compare his performance to that of Michy Batshauyi, who came on as a 73rd minute substitute to partner Costa up-front, it really does bring up some questions. The Belgian in 17 minutes managed to score and hit the woodwork, having another effort blocked and one saved as he had a real impact as a substitute for Conte.
With two successful dribbles, it was clear that Batshuayi’s pace and agility gave him the edge against the Watford defence which Costa lacked. Whilst this is only one case, and in other games Costa will be more effective than his teammate, it does raise concerns over the Spaniard’s lack of flexibility and adaptability. With Antonio Conte still in the market for another forward to compete with the two who finished the match at Vicarage Road, Costa will have to continue to produce the goals, and improve the performances, if he is to retain his place as first choice striker.
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