The Spanish striker was amongst the best center forwards last season and his signing offers Chelsea just what they need in attack...
By Shikharr Chandra
When asked about Chelsea's striker situation back in January, Jose Mourinho was quick to brush off the question insisting that the club will wait for the right option. The idea behind not spending a massive amount during the start of the year was to avoid another transfer mishap, one that the supporters and the club would eventually go on to regret.
There has been something massively wrong with the choices the club has made when it comes to signing strikers over the last few years. Apart from Didier Drogba, no striker could really adjust to Chelsea's style of play and was eventually branded as flops. Fernando Torres, Andriy Shevchenko and Mateja Kezman are a few examples of players that promised so much but ended up being criticized for their poor displays.
Last season what separated Chelsea from the Premier League title was a world class striker. A side full of established stars and budding talents were never by a quality center forward. While Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba scored important goals for the club, the frequency of their strikes in comparison to the rest was very low. Eto'o failed to find the net in away games while Ba was inconsistent and it was the same old disappointing story surrounding Torres.
There were questions raised on Mourinho and his decision to loan out Romelu Lukaku despite his good season with West Bromwich Albion. However, the idea of letting him develop as a first choice striker at Everton rather than giving him a bit part role at Chelsea seemed to be the right one.
On Tuesday night though, Chelsea finally announced the much awaited signing of Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid on a five year deal. Costa who was part of the La Liga winning side with Atletico, scored 35 goals in all competitions for the Spanish side including eight goals in his Champions League debut season and after a prolonged period of time, where the club has failed to replace Drogba, Costa's signing gives a glimmer of hope to everyone at Stamford Bridge.
Unlike his predecessors at the club, Costa does not come with a glowing reputation. Instead, the last campaign was only the first season that he managed to truly shine and thus there have been numerous doubts as to whether he is a 'one season wonder'. However, it seems the club had little option but to take a gamble on the former Valladolid player considering the lack of striking talent in the transfer market.
Costa did not have a great World Cup with Spain. The La Roja were eliminated in the group stages and the Brazilian born Spaniard was under constant criticism following his dismal display. However, to judge him on a few bad games seems unfair considering he was a complete misfit in that Spanish side. The Spaniards are known for their possession brand of football which was far from what Costa was accustomed to at Atletico.
Under Diego Simeone, he was part of a side that used a counter-attacking style and pressed high up the pitch, something very similar to what Mourinho has done with Chelsea over the course of last season.
Strong, physically imposing and bullish, Costa's attributes make him perfect for the Blues. A side that managed to ease past the big guns in the league failed miserably against lesser opposition mainly because they lacked an imposing figure in front of goal. He might not be the most pleasing player to watch on field but he can get the job done.
Another positive about Costa's signing is that with him in the side, the pressure on Eden Hazard will be comparatively less as compared to last season. The Belgian winger was without doubt Chelsea's best player last season and they looked short of both ideas and goals in his absence.
After a frustrating season for Mourinho that saw him use varied tactics even resorting to a false 9 approach, Costa's capture could play a decisive role in the title race this season. With Manchester City and Manchester United comprising of a wealth of talent in the striking department, the signing of the Atletico Madrid striker provides Chelsea some ambition for the coming season.
"Boys who grew up playing in academies are taught to control themselves and respect others but no one ever told me otherwise," Costa said. "I didn't have a school to teach me this. I was used to seeing players elbowing each other in the face and I thought it was the norm."
The most impressive thing about Costa is that he never backs down. Against Chelsea in the Champions League last season, Costa remained a nuisance for the Blues making his presence felt. Against the big guns in the league as well, Costa's bullish attitude made him an absolute nightmare for defenders to deal with.
Of his 27 league goals last season, 26 of them came from inside the box. Chelsea's wingers who are known for their quick and short passes would find Costa an able partner in attack.
Costa can fit into the sort of formations Mourinho prefers, be it a 4-2-3-1 as Atleti played last season or a 4-3-3 that Portuguese tactician so often employs. He can link up with the wingers as well and is good aerially while his incisive finishing makes him the sort of poacher Chelsea need to finish off their moves, something they missed so much last season.
With every big money signing, doubts are raised as to whether the player can adapt to the high standards of the Premier League, but for a striker who was instrumental in beating the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona and going on to win the league along with a runners-up place in the Champions League, there seems to be little doubt that Chelsea have finally found the right man to lead their attack for the coming years.