Last season, Chelsea had a striker problem. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, and Samuel Eto’o just weren’t good enough. The trio combined for only 19 of Chelsea’s 71 goals in Premier League play. To put those numbers into perspective, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scored 17 on his own, and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez netted 21 and 31, respectively.
In an attempt to remedy the issue, manager Jose Mourinho sold Ba to Turkish side Besiktas and did not resign Eto’o. The Blues’ boss then bought Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa for £32m and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba returned on a free transfer. As this article is being written, Torres remains at Stamford Bridge, although many signs point to a Milan move.
So problem solved, right? Well … yes and no.
A duo of Costa and Drogba is a clear upgrade on Ba, Eto’o, and Torres. Costa is a battering ram of a striker with a penchant for drawing fouls from opponents. He loves to run onto balls played in the channels and, while he often can over-dribble, he is clinical in front of the goal. So far, Costa has fit right in at Chelsea, scoring in the club’s first two fixtures.
Drogba, while clearly past his prime, can still be a useful player. The Ivorian international still possesses a strong ability to hold up the ball, and his finishing hasn’t diminished much. With that said, Drogba’s pace and stamina are not what they once were. It’s hard to see the 36 year-old being able to give any more than an hour during matches where he starts.
Still, Mourinho no longer has to be concerned over the quality of its strikers. As a one-two punch, they are good enough for Chelsea to win the Premier League and to seriously challenge for the Champions League title. But that doesn’t mean all of the striker problems are solved. Due to a lack of quality depth, Mourinho now must worry over Costa and Drogba’s ability to hold up over the campaign.
If the early season signs are any indication, this just might become his chief worry. Drogba injured his ankle during preseason and, although it wasn’t anything major, it will be tough for the Blues to rely on the aging striker to carry the load, should Costa go down. Over the last few days, the fear out of Stamford Bridge was that Drogba may just have to do that after Costa tweaked a hamstring during the match against Leicester City and aggravated it in training this week. The good news for Chelsea is that the injury isn’t as bad as originally feared, but Costa still will miss the trip to Everton this weekend.
Even though Costa’s injury appears to be a minor one, it still is a warning sign. The striker had hamstring problems while at Atletico, and this could become a recurring issue. Should Costa be forced to miss a significant amount of time, it would be a huge blow to Chelsea. If Torres is sold, Mourinho would be forced to rely too much on Drogba or possibly field Andre Schurrle in a false nine role, which he clearly would prefer not to do. Even if Torres were to stay, he has shown that he has nothing left to offer in a Chelsea shirt.
Therefore, it is crucial that Costa remain fit. Although Chelsea are rumored to be after Roma’s Mattia Destro to shore up their striker position, it usually takes time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, and the young Italian very well could struggle early on.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, it seems as if the striker troubles that plagued the club last year may linger into this season.
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