Diego Costa apparently did not trust himself to go the full 90 without picking up a yellow card. Antonio Conte was willing to take that risk – or just wanted to remind his striker who is in charge.
One of the more puzzling moments of the Premier League season came in the 70th minute of Chelsea’s match against Leicester City. Diego Costa signaled to Antonio Conte that he wanted to be substituted out. Conte unsurprisingly denied the request, as much out of pique as tactics.
Costa became increasingly agitated, furiously gesticulating that – no, really – he was ready to come off. Costa resumed play somewhat timidly, before finishing the game at his usual intensity.
Everyone knows that Diego Costa is bold. Now he is “tries to tell Antonio Conte what to do” bold. Talk about a battle of the alpha dogs.
Costa seemed to share the concerns of many Chelsea fans as he sits on four yellow cards with Manchester United looming next weekend. After Costa made it through the Hull City match without a booking, there was some speculation that Conte would minimize Costa’s playing time against Leicester.
Conte explained his risk-reward evaluation, sandwiched between assertions of his authority.
"If I can I want to keep Costa on until the end… I know it was a risk because if he got another yellow card he would miss the next game but his passion is important for the team and he must transfer this in every minute of the game. I always take the responsibility in every situation, positive or negative, substitutions are always my decision. – Chelsea FC"
Diego Costa appears to be the subject – or target – of a charm offensive by Chelsea’s media team. Ever since his interview with Eden Hazard went viral for Chelsea TV, the club’s social media has been a non-stop stream of Costa.
Diego Costa heads to training!
Diego Costa talks to Eduardo!
Celebrate Diego Costa’s birthday with video montages, an Instagram story and a day full of tweets!
Perhaps Chelsea are trying to make Diego Costa feel truly welcome and wanted so he won’t pine for Atletico during upcoming transfer windows. Maybe they are trying to present a kinder, gentler Diego Costa to land him an off-season role on Dancing with the Stars or Great British Bake-Off. Or they may be trying to counter rumours that regular consumption of Carabao leads to uncontrolled fits of rage.
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Regardless of what is behind Chelsea’s attempt to give Costa a brand make-over, his results and #passion speak for themselves. He scored his seventh Premier League goal of the season seven minutes into the game. He went the full 90 without seeing a card, meaning he will be available against Manchester United.
Antonio Conte has said that he likes Diego Costa on the edge, because that is when the Spaniard is most dangerous, confident and productive. Costa showed the right instinct towards self-preservation by wanting to come off to ensure that he could play against United. Conte showed the right instinct by keeping Costa in the game, riding that line.
Antonio Conte and Diego Costa could be one of the great manager-player pairings in Chelsea history. They do not complement each other at all. Instead, they fuel each other’s intensity. Inevitably, a pair like that are going to clash. That’s a small price to pay for the results they have achieved so far.