Is Chelsea's Diego Costa the best striker in the Premier League?

After starting his Chelsea career in fine form, scoring 20 league goals in his debut season, Diego Costa, like most of the the Blues’ squad last season, struggled to show his class. 12 goals from 28 league games left the Stamford Bridge outfit struggling as their main hit-man kept failing to fire.

Jose Mourinho lost his job and Costa went on to enjoy a stronger second half of the 2015/16 campaign, with nine of his 12 goals coming after Christmas. The Spaniard would finish as Chelsea’s top scorer in the league, with five goals more than compatriot Pedro, in second, yet in comparison to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Costa only managed 50% of the Argentinian’s league tally.

With such difference in their goal tallies last season, the debate of who’s the best striker in the league may have been decided last season, unanimously in Aguero’s favour.

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Yet, Conte’s arrival at Stamford Bridge and the extended recovery period after missing EURO 2016 have inspired Costa’s form. The Spaniard has looked like a different player, grabbing 10 goals in 13 matches, while also keeping his behaviour in check. Normally known for his fiery playing style, Costa has allowed his feet to do the talking this season.

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The Spaniard has also answered questions as to whether he and Eden Hazard are compatible with each other. The Belgian’s poor form last term led to many wondering if Costa was acting as a hindrance to the current Player of the Month. Yet, since a lesson at Arsenal where Chelsea were beaten 3-0, Costa and Hazard as a duo have become the pinnacle of Chelsea’s attack in Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 formation.

Since the Arsenal game, Chelsea have operated with a unique system – the same one Conte’s Italy impressed with at EURO 2016, and, like with Italy, the Blues have been well drilled defensively, keeping seven clean sheets. Yet, with players like Willian, Costa and Hazard in the side, Conte’s men are also impressing going forward, most notably in the 4-0 and 5-0 wins against Manchester United and Everton, respectively.

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Costa has been trusted to lead the line, with Conte letting Bertrand Traore and Loic Remy leave on loan, and giving new signing Michy Batshuyi a backup squad status. Costa has only missed 24 minutes of Premier League action this season. His strike rate following the club’s victory over Tottenham is a goal every 114.7 minutes of football. If he was to keep this form up, he would end the season with 30 goals.

However, it isn’t just goals that Costa is bringing to the 3-4-3 employed at Chelsea. The 28-year-old has created 22 chances, four of them being assists, so far this season. He’s created 66% of what he managed last season already, just 13 games in. Meanwhile, the Spaniard has just under double of what Sergio Aguero has created this season (12) in just two more league appearances.

A stat that suggests Conte has turned Costa into a focused goal machine, from a fiery Spaniard never far from controversy, is the percentage of fouls committed compared to the amount suffered. Costa has suffered 76% of the fouls he’s been involved with, committing just 11.

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The 28-year-old is also helping his team defensively this season, which will please Conte immensely. Costa has completed 17 clearances, three interceptions and two blocks in just 13 matches. When compared to Aguero, the Spaniard appears to be helping out defensively much more often. Aguero has only four defensive actions to his name.

It’s clear that Conte has found a method of motivation that inspires Diego Costa. His work ethic and commitment to the team have been taken to another level by the Italian. With one man of the match award to his name, Costa has perhaps been outshone by Hazard, and his miraculous return to form, so far this season. However, the Spaniard has been immense.

The argument as to whether Diego Costa is the best striker in the Premier League is a highly debatable one, yet with the Spaniard 20/1 to finish top scorer this season, he is certainly silencing the critics and bookmakers, if nothing else.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Janet Brooks.

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