With the international break upon us, Premier League fans have taken the opportunity to reflect on the performances of some of the league’s top clubs and to assess just how much they’ve improved throughout the summer. As part of a series, we take a look at which stars have stood out, who have stepped up to the mark and which players are their club’s best performers so far.
Diego Costa had a troubled 2015-16 season, as did the entire Chelsea camp. Jose Mourinho met his underwhelming end to life at Stamford Bridge and despite emphatic success the season previous, Chelsea were unable to reproduce the performances which caught the headlines throughout the 2014-15 campaign.
The Blues were left fighting against relegation as the new year dawned and despite an improvement in 2016, they were unable to secure a European place and were left embarrassed by their rivals as they sneaked a place into the league’s top ten. Around them, Jurgen Klopp transformed Liverpool’s dwindling form, guiding the Merseysiders to a European and domestic cup final after just seven months in charge. Manchester City confirmed the departure of Manuel Pellegrini but were still able to mount an impressive Champions League campaign – reaching the semi-finals, only to be knocked out by Spanish giants Real Madrid. Arsenal and Manchester United had difficult seasons but the Gunners were able to finish runners-up in the league, whilst United grabbed a Europa League spot. Tottenham battled for the title against Leicester City but after a disappointing end to the season, found themselves outclassed by Raneiri’s side and their London rivals leap-frogged them to a second place finish.
All-in-all, there was plenty of misery for Chelsea and after a summer of recuperation, recovery and change, the Blues have bounced back this season showing much more ambition and progression. Antonio Conte’s arrival was sure to bring some positive changes and he seems to have gone some way to demonstrating that, although there’s still plenty of question marks surrounding Chelsea’s squad. The return of David Luiz was a statement of ambition from the club but also suggested Conte was unhappy with the current centre-backs and felt the squad needed further strength and options going into the new season.
Luiz’s addition doesn’t seem to have helped out much though and his poor form, alongside Gary Cahill’s, has produced problems for Chelsea in defence. Luckily for Conte and the Blues, their star striker is once again firing on all fronts and it’s largely down to the input of Diego Costa that Chelsea are back on board in the league this season. The forward has netted six goals and recorded two assists already, in just seven appearances for Chelsea this season.
That’s an astonishing return and he’s ahead in the pack for the Premier League’s top goalscorers, setting a high standard for rivals Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez to chase. He’s created nine chances already this season – that’s more than one per game and he’s played a direct role in at least 70% of Chelsea’s goals so far this season and that’s easy to see why with a shots on target ratio of over three per game. He tops the list for assists and goals at Chelsea and for goals in the Premier League; his performances in attack have been crucial to the Blues’ challenging start under Conte.
They’ve still struggled to implement themselves though and they’ve already conceded nine goals this season, including three against Arsenal and two from rivals Liverpool. Apart from victories against Burnley, Hull City and Leicester City, they’ve struggled to make their mark on the 2016-17 campaign but through Costa’s involvement, they made sure they’ve put some early points on the board.
With away trips against Arsenal and Leicester City out of the way and a home clash against Liverpool, Chelsea will be hoping to make further progression after the international break and Conte will be hoping the break will help John Terry return to full match fitness – which will only help his defensive concerns. The Blues will need Costa to continue firing on all fronts and hopefully as the confidence of his teammates grow, the Spaniard can hope to receive further support from Eden Hazard, Willian and Michy Batshuayi who have also made promising starts to the new season.
Whether you love him or loathe him, when he’s on form, Costa can be one of the most devastating strikers in the English top flight and Chelsea will be relying on him to guide his side back to the heights of the Premier League and help the Blues seal a return to European football.