The Premier League flexed its financial muscle during the transfer window, spending over £800m and bringing in some of the world’s top players in the process. Cesc Fabregas returned to England and signed for Chelsea, as did Mario Balotelli (this time in the red of Liverpool). Meanwhile Alexis Sanchez left Barcelona for Arsenal, and Angel Di Maria left Real Madrid for Manchester United. However, the Premier League has always been known for its great strikers and so for me, the two biggest signings of the window have been made by Chelsea and Man United in the forms of Diego Costa and Radamel Falcao respectively. The ultimate question then, is this: who will be better?
Both strikers have been in exceptional in recent years and it was expected to see the two players ply their trade in the Premier League eventually, although it came as something of a surprise (especially in Falcao’s case) to see them both make the move to England in the same transfer window.
Costa was one of the top strikers in Europe last year, scoring 27 goals in 35 league appearances for Atletico Madrid in their league-winning season. According to Squawka.com this means he had a goals-per-game ratio of 0.77. He attempted 108 shots overall in the course of the season and managed to achieve a shooting accuracy of 57%.
Falcao only managed 17 league games last year due to the season-ending injury he suffered at Monaco. However, he still managed to score nine goals but when you look at this more closely, it means he only managed 0.53 goals per game on average, which is still pretty good but inferior to Costa’s average. Again, due to Falcao’s smaller amount of games, he only attempted 50 shots compared to Costa’s 108. Interestingly though, he was more likely to get his shot on target than his counterpart, managing 60% last season.
Now, you may think this is an unfair comparison of the two due to Falcao’s injury. I am inclined to agree to an extent and so I took a look at Falcao’s previous full season of action at Atletico Madrid in the 2012/13 season, and it is fascinating to see how closely the two strikers are matched.
In 34 games for the Spanish side, Falcao scored 28 goals (one more than Costa last season) and managed a shooting accuracy of 54% (3% fewer than Costa). However, he attempted 123 shots on goal – 15 more than his successor.
Goal scoring is obviously the main part of a striker’s game but winning the ball in attacking positions is also extremely important, especially if your team excel in counter-attacking football. Both players in this comparison are strong and are not afraid of going into a challenge, and Falcao looks much better in this respect.
The Colombian won 47.70% of his duels in 2012/13, compared to Costa’s inferior 40.68% last season. However, it is important to note that Falcao only managed to win 37.37% of his duels while at Monaco, and it will be this form that the striker brings with him to Man United.
In conclusion, the two strikers are fairly well matched when you compare full seasons. In practical terms however, it may not be so close this season. Falcao had to deal with a serious knee injury last year and speculation in the media suggests that Real Madrid didn’t want to take the risk on signing him due to this. In contrast, Costa came to Chelsea as one of the most in-form strikers in Europe and has continued this by scoring four goals in his first three league appearances. Falcao could make the difference for Manchester United in terms of qualifying for the Champions League, but Costa could deliver the league title back to Stamford Bridge. In my opinion therefore, Diego Costa will be the Premier League’s best striker this season.