Chelsea continue title charge amidst Diego Costa controversy

Credit: Chris Axon
Credit: Chris Axon /

Chelsea had a forgettable Friday as the Diego Costa news broke, but the players that were available versus Leicester proved their title charge isn’t reliant on the Spaniard.

It would have been easy for Chelsea’s in-form squad to put in a sub-par performance at Leicester last Saturday. In fact, it would even be understandable. Arguably the best player in the league, Diego Costa, kicked up a fuss in the build-up and threw everything up in the air, especially his side’s title challenge. This team is made of something strong, though. It’s going to take more than a row between player and manager for them to falter at this stage of the season.

Marcos Alonso was the unlikely hero at the weekend. The wing-back struggled in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham at the start of the year but has bounced back well and could easily have bagged a hat-trick. His right-footed effort put Chelsea in front, and a deflected attempt from outside the box in the second half doubled their lead. Alonso’s defensive abilities leave much to be desired, due to his slow pace and stuck-in-the-mud turns. However, going forward he is an asset, and he showed just as much in the 3-0 win.

Pedro was the other goal scorer, helping lead the line with Eden Hazard in Costa’s absence. The Spaniard continues to show the sort of form that Chelsea thought they were getting when he signed in the summer of 2015 from Barcelona. Costa would have enjoyed himself against the poor Leicester backline, but his attitude in reaction to a reported offer from China meant he had to miss out. When he’ll be back, if he ever does return, is unknown at this point.

Following the revealing by the media of Costa’s impending absence on Friday night, Chelsea were quickly written off as title contenders. They may have held a five point lead and won 12 of their last 13 heading into the Leicester match, but their striker’s disgruntled actions meant people doubted their ability to pull off a result. And yet at the end of Gameweek 21, the Blues had separated themselves from the chasing pack by an extra two points following Liverpool’s draw with Manchester United. Not bad for a team that had to endure a tough week before their match-up.

Live Feed

The World-Class Players Who Chose Brazil Over the MLS
The World-Class Players Who Chose Brazil Over the MLS /

MLS Multiplex

  • Worrying statistic shows how Chelsea have NEVER replaced Diego CostaThe Top Flight
  • Source: Diego Costa was floated to numerous MLS clubs this offseasonMLS Multiplex
  • Everton: 3 options for Kean replacement and Dominic Calvert-Lewin backupPrince Rupert's Tower
  • Superstar Not The Answer To West Ham's Striker ConundrumGreen Street Hammers
  • Diego Costa would give Liverpool some bite - we must sign himRush The Kop
  • If last week showed anything, it’s that this is by far more than a one-man team. Costa has scored some important goals, most notably the winning ones versus Crystal Palace, West Brom and Middlesbrough. But it’s important to note Chelsea still needed their defence to be as solid as ever to ensure neither side found a way back into the game. N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic were also required to do the “dirty work” in midfield, winning possession back and allowing their side to retain control of the games. Let’s not forget Cesc Fabregas’ recent contributions since returning to the first-team in the 3-1 win at Manchester City.

    Eden Hazard is having a renaissance of a season following last year’s catastrophic showing while Pedro, as mentioned above, is becoming a key player at last. Costa is vital to Chelsea’s push for the title, and the run-in becomes a lot easier if he’s still a member of the squad, but not all is lost if the striker refuses to play his part.

    How Chelsea deal with this unfortunate situation will be interesting. Costa has kicked up a fuss, whether it’s over fitness concerns or an interest in moving to China, but it seems unlikely he’ll be allowed to leave this month. The team are in pole position to secure another league title, though despite the convincing win versus Leicester, Costa could still cause internal problems.

    If it comes to it, the board have to agree to review his future in the summer. For now, however, it’s on Costa to repay the faith shown in him by Chelsea’s faithful and perform as well as he has over the last few months.

    Time and time again, he was scrutinised and his name was dragged through the mud for incidents on the field but Chelsea fans stuck by him. Stamping, shouting and causing trouble was what you could expect to see from our beloved Diego. That looked to have quietened down under Antonio Conte this year, but the temptation of a £30 million a year offer from China has brought with it an unhappy figure. All the supporters ask now in return is a motivated Costa for the next four months. Is that too much to ask from the 28-year-old?

    Only time will tell on that one. At the moment, Chelsea are preparing for the visit of Hull, who are feeling good after picking up a 3-1 win at the weekend versus Bournemouth. Whether or not Costa is even named as a substitute remains to be seen, but Chelsea should still have enough about them to take care of a side that have been battling relegation for much of the year.

    Costa’s absence didn’t matter last weekend, and may not make a difference next week either but the departure of such a prolific goal scorer is one that no team can afford. For a player that brings as much talent as he does trouble, the hope now is he stays put for the remainder of Chelsea’s title charge. If he does leave, though, the table-toppers still have the talent to stay there.