Antonio Conte accomplished a number things in his first season at Chelsea. Taking a team to a title that had underperformed and finished 10th the season before was an outstanding achievement. However, we all know that 2015/16 was an off-season for Chelsea. Their talent was evident, they were simply uninspired and unmotivated.
Conte came swooping in with his energy, got the best out of his players, revamped their tactics and they performed on a level above all other teams. The form of champions. Credit should go to Conte, of course, however also to the players for accepting him and his methods and performing at their best level. Players like Diego Costa.
The 28 year old hard man signed from Atletico Madrid prior to the 2014-2015 season has proven to be one of the finest lone strikers in the current game. His class was evident in the two seasons at Atletico prior to joining Chelsea:
2012/2013: Apps: 44; Goals: 20
2013/2014: Apps: 52; Goals: 36
A pretty decent record for a striker who also won La Liga over Barcelona and Real Madrid before joining the Blues. Let’s see how he’s done for Chelsea since then:
2014/2015: Apps: 37; Goals: 21
2015/2016: Apps: 41; Goals: 16
2016/2017: Apps: 42; Goals: 22
This is not a bad record at all, and that’s not to mention assists. Costa clearly provides a lot of value for the team, even in a bad season such as 2015/2016 when Chelsea finished 10th. Why then is Conte ousting him from the squad?
Does he think three seasons is enough at this level for Costa? Perhaps he believes that he could get an even better striker at Chelsea. Could their training ground bust-ups actually be the petty reason that Conte wants Costa out? Either way, one would presume that Conte thought he’d have his replacement by now, and is likely biting his tongue because Lukaku has gone to Manchester United, who underperformed in the season prior themselves, and could well be pushing Chelsea for the top spots this season.
Where will Conte go now for his striking options if he doesn’t wish to reconcile with Costa? Morata may still be available, however he is not as prolific as Costa. Morata made 43 appearances and scored 20 goals last season, which was his best return to date. At 24 his ceiling is high, however he’s not “proven” in the way that Costa is.
At 28, there are at least a few years left for Costa to continue his form, and with players now being nurtured by sports scientists, the peak age could well go into the early 30s. Morata could be the next Spanish number one after Costa, however that battle is yet to be fought, and strangely enough, is also contingent on the outcome of this transfer window. Morata wants minutes and to be the first choice striker for Spain. Costa wants to keep his spot there and has to remain as a starter at a big club. Are these the only relevant options for Chelsea and Conte at the moment? We’ll see as the transfer window moves on.
Who do you think Chelsea should buy, and what will be the outcome of the Costa and Morata battle?