How Diego Costa's performance against West Brom showed a change in character
Chelsea have extended their run of wins to nine in the league and are quickly emerging as the favourites for the league title. They were somewhat overlooked during the summer as the media’s focus was on Manchester City and Manchester United, but it is Antonio Conte’s side that has been the most impressive this season. Since their change to a 3-4-3 formation, they have been unstoppable and they could open up a significant lead during the Christmas period. The one major concern will be fatigue as there haven’t been many changes to the starting eleven in recent weeks, but they possess enough quality in the squad to do so over the next few matches.
Diego Costa has looked like one of the best strikers in the world again this season and has been revitalised by the managerial change. There were fears that the aggressive management style of Conte would rub the striker up the wrong way, but that hasn’t been the case at all. Costa has become a key part of the team and hugely enjoys playing in the 3-4-3 formation. It wasn’t his best performance of the season, but he scored the winning goal and helped his side to three points, despite being frustrated for the majority of the match.
The Spanish international was closely watched by Jonny Evans and he struggled to influence the game in the final third. That is showed by him having only one shot during the match, but it was a decisive one. He created the goal for himself as he forced the defender into a mistake, ran into the area and slammed past Ben Foster. It took impressive composure to find the back of the net considering he was running at high speed, but Costa showed that he has that in his locker. The best strikers take the chances that come his way and the 28-year-old certainly did that on Sunday.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the striker as he was dispossessed on six occasions, more than any other player on the pitch. The Diego Costa of last season would have lost his cool and lashed out, but he is a much more composed character this year and he stuck at his task. The change in his mentality has been impressive and Conte deserves a lot of credit for getting the striker to focus on his football. His temper has always been the only obstacle preventing him from becoming one of the best players in the league and he now has that under control.
He completed two of his three attempted dribbles and managed to help his side move further up the pitch on both occasions. His dribbling ability is sometimes overlooked, but it is what makes him so dangerous. He showed that with his goal, as he is able to carry the ball and create space for himself. In terms of passing, Costa finished the match with a 64% pass completion and he will be hoping to improve that over the coming weeks. His link up play has been good for the majority of this season, but he was closely watched by West Brom defenders and that had an effect on it being worse on Sunday.
Although there was elements of his performance that he won’t be happy with, this was perhaps the most important match for Diego Costa this season. He was targeted and he was struggling to make an impact, but he stuck at it and got his rewards in the end. The transformation in his character has been a joy to watch and he is now firing his side to a title push. He managed to take his only chance of the match and that emphasises how confident he is in front of goal at the moment. If he continues in this form, Chelsea will be crowned champions.
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