Drogba vs Costa, and what to expect from Chelsea next year
Drogba’s status as the deadliest striker in Chelsea’s recent history was already in no doubt even before he sealed Chelsea’s first European Cup win two years ago with the last kick of the final. The striker was arguably Mourinho’s best signing for Chelsea, but since Jose returned for his second term, much has been made of the relative lack of striking options upfront. Diego Costa is rumoured to be the Drogba of Jose’s second term, but how does he stack up against the original version and what can Chelsea fans hope to expect from him?
Both Drogba and Costa are of the archetypal Mourinho forward – strong physical presence up front with aerial prowess. Both can lead the line on their own, both can strike dead balls with venom, and both do their share of defensive work. But their differences are more subtle.
Drogba was the complete center-forward for Chelsea. The Ivorian could win games all on his own, simply because it was hard to deal with the sheer muscularity of his play. Drogba was also the occasional free-kick taker for Chelsea. More importantly, the standout aspect of Drogba’s game was centered on his presence in the box. Under Mourinho, Chelsea were usually 4-3-3, with Drogba the focal point for attacks, with Lampard arriving late as a runner and wide forwards driving directly towards goal.
What Costa brings to the table is different altogether. Costa is probably the second best “channel” striker in the game today, after Luis Suarez. The Brazilian does hold the ball when receiving it with his back to goal, but what he does best is pulling center-backs out wide with his runs to the channels. This brings the rest of his teammates into play, and makes it hard for the defending team to identify who to mark, especially when the center forward is languishing out on the wings. This has also to do with evolving trends in football, where it is not enough for a striker to camp in the opposition penalty area, but it is clear that Costa is part of the new breed of forward. Costa is also able to carry the ball on his own during counter-attacks, something which Chelsea desperately lacked this season.
The beauty of Atleti’s play this season has been the willingness of their midfield runners to surge forward when counter-attacking, but Chelsea lack the refinement and muscle in midfield to make it happen. Oscar has not featured regularly as Mourinho eschewed forwards for more defensive-minded players, but he is ideal for the type of football Mourinho hopes to play with Costa in the side. Ramires is rumoured to have fallen out of favour, while Mikel, Matic and Lampard are not the men for the job. Unless Chelsea splurges on more surging runners in midfield, it’s hard to see them reaping the full benefits of what Costa brings to the side.