Nine goals; three assists: Analysing Diego Costa's superb performances under Antonio Conte?
There have been a few players to enjoy a career revival at Chelsea this season and one of those is the league’s current leading goal-scorer Diego Costa. He had a turbulent relationship with Jose Mourinho, especially towards the end of the Portuguese manager’s tenure at Stamford Bridge. There was interest in Costa from his former club Atletico Madrid during the summer, but a move didn’t happen and he ended up staying at Chelsea. It could have gone two ways with some predicting that the striker wouldn’t get along with Antonio Conte. However, the two have struck up a great relationship and that is evident from his performances on the pitch.
How has he started the season?
During the first eleven matches, Diego Costa has contributed nine goals and three assists. This is a significantly better start than the one he had last season and he is once again one of the best strikers in Europe. He deserves a lot of credit for how he has performed this season and is a serious contender to finish the year as the league’s top scorer. Costa is averaging 3.36 shots and 1.45 chances created per game, highlighting the threat that he poses in the final third. His aggression has been channelled in the correct way and Chelsea are reaping the rewards.
There were concerns about his discipline at the beginning of the season as he was often getting involved in some unnecessary situations. He could have been sent off in his first two matches, but he got some luck and hasn’t looked back since. Despite his reputation as an authoritarian coach, Conte has managed to help Costa manage his discipline problems and has been getting the best out of the striker. He shares many traits with Diego Simeone, who shared a great relationship with Costa at Atletico Madrid and it could be that Costa benefits from having that type of coach.
What is his role in the team?
He is the undisputed first choice striker and has thrived since the change to a 3-4-3 formation. Chelsea have a lot of great attacking options on the pitch at any one point, which creates space in the final third for Costa to take advantage of. His movement has been excellent since August and that is creating opportunities for him and his team-mates. He has been helped by the signing of Michy Batshuayi as it has increased competition in the squad. Last season, there wasn’t a real threat to Costa’s place in the starting eleven, which led to the Spanish international being lazy at times. There will be no problems like that under Conte and that is a positive thing for Costa as he approaches the peak of his career.
Can he maintain his form?
Chelsea have been magnificent over the last month of Premier League football and Costa has been one of their star performers. If they do manage to maintain their form, then the chances will be created for Costa, who is a good finisher. Although he is likely to suffer a drop-off in performances at some stage, the striker will continue to score goals and he should breakthrough the 20-goal barrier. The only problem he has is his lack of discipline, which has improved recently. He now needs to maintain that and focus completely on what is happening on the pitch.
At the age of 28, Costa will be eager to enjoy success over the next few seasons and it looks like he will try to achieve that at Stamford Bridge. The team is set up to get the best from him and he is stepping up to the challenge. He will face a serious battle to finish the season as the Premier League leading goal-scorer, but he will be a real contender. I expect him to have his best season in a Chelsea shirt and his goals could be the difference between a title challenge and a top four finish.
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