Why Diego Costa could be the most important signing this summer

There have been a number of headline-grabbing transfers so far this summer, with the big clubs all spending heavily. Alexis Sanchez has moved from Barcelona to Arsenal, Manchester United have spent big on Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, while Liverpool have raided Southampton for a number of their best players. However, the one signing which could help decide the title race this season is Chelsea’s £32m capture of Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa, from Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

Despite finishing third in the Premier League, 2013-2014 was in some respects an underwhelming season for Chelsea. After the excitement and optimism generated by Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, it soon became clear that Chelsea’s title bid had several flaws. One of these was a surplus of creative attacking midfield players and not enough steel in midfield. Mourinho sought to remedy this by selling the lightweight Juan Mata to Manchester United and bringing in Nemanja Matic. This brought greater balance and a more solid defensive base to their midfield.

However, the other problem facing Mourinho, and one that was perhaps the crucial difference between themselves and the teams who finished above them was the lack of striking options available. A perpetually misfiring Fernando Torres, an ageing Samuel Eto’o and an inconsistent, injury prone Demba Ba were never likely to match the firepower available to Liverpool and Manchester City. Compare the 71 goals scored by Chelsea last season with the 101 and 102 scored respectively by City and Liverpool. If Chelsea were to challenge these teams, and with Mourinho seemingly unconvinced by Romelu Lukaku, it became clear that their top priority in the transfer market would be the acquisition of a top class striker.

Costa was the spear head of Atletico Madrid’s attack last season, his 36 goals in all competitions propelling them to the La Liga title and the Champions League final. Compare that with Ba and Eto’o, who managed just 19 goals between them in the Premier League.  He is a powerful, bullish centre forward, capable of holding up the ball and is a finisher of deadly accuracy.

His power is demonstrated by the fact that he won more aerial duels than Daniel Sturridge, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney last season and his shot accuracy of 57% was bettered only by Aguero out of the aforementioned players.  Like Atletico, Chelsea’s midfield is full of creative, attacking players who should be able to provide Costa with plenty of chances and the fact that he is reunited with his team mate Filipe Luis should help him settle in.

However, the signature of Costa is seen by some as something of a gamble by Jose Mourinho, particularly after the forward’s recent injury problems and poor showing at the World Cup. In a recent interview, former Chelsea coach Paul Clement, now Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at Real Madrid, expressed doubts over Costa’s ability to impose himself in the Premier League, stating that without his “nastiness and aggression” he would be merely an “average player.”

He went on to say that he “wouldn’t find it as easy to bully defenders in England as he did in Spain.” This is undoubtedly true, the fast-paced, physical nature of the Premier League meaning that defenders are a lot more used to large, powerful centre forwards. The recent travails in England of some successful La Liga strikers also provides a note of caution, particularly Roberto Soldado, free scoring in Spain yet underwhelming in the Premier League. Chelsea too have had their fair share of big name striking disappointments, most notably £30m Andriy Shevchenko and £50m Fernando Torres.

Therefore, it is vital that Costa puts these doubts to bed as soon as possible. He has all the attributes needed to make it in the Premier League, and the recent return of Didier Drogba to Stamford Bridge will help to take the pressure off him. If he does recapture the form of last season it could be the final piece in the puzzle for Chelsea to win the league for the first time since 2010.

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