Diego Costa’s revealing rallying cry can be catalyst for Chelsea turn-around
As happens after a run of poor Premier League results, rumours of discontent inevitably begin to swirl. Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho surely makes a rod for his own back, with his swagger proving an acquired taste for press, pundits and opposition fans alike, but this time it truly looked as though the clock could begin to tick on the Portuguese’s second Stamford Bridge stint.
However, in uncharacteristic fashion, the Blues board and players have come out in force to quell reports of squad dissatisfaction, following a 3-1 drubbing by Southampton in which club harmony did look distinctly frayed.
Eight points from as many league games already had the vultures circling over Cobham, despite it being just months since Chelsea (now outsiders with Coral at 16/1 to retain the Premier League) were crowned English champions, but Diego Costa recently spoke out to shift the blame squarely from Mourinho’s shoulders.
The currently suspended forward, also omitted from Spain’s most recent Euro 2016 qualifying squad, stated: “We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realised the team was already in a bad situation.”
Costa continued, with his revelations on player responsibility somewhat refreshing from a superstar striker much-maligned for his unsportman-like antics, declaring: “I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 per cent as we were supposed to be when we got here.
“Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100 per cent, and so are the other guys.”
The Brazil-born Spain international bullied Premier League defences into submission last season but has, like other key cogs such as Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic, looked a shadow of his former self this season.
One strike from six league outings in particular from Costa is a shoddy return for one of Europe’s most prolific attackers, so this international break could come as both a blessing and a turning point for the capital club.
Left at home by Vicente del Bosque, Costa has the chance to rest and re-charge, while other players can benefit from being away from the microscope at Stamford Bridge.
Could his words be a catalyst for Chelsea (11/10 to finish outside the top four) to charge up the table?
That may be too sensationalist, but as an important dressing-room figure, fans should be heartened by Costa’s outburst. In a sense, the striker has fallen on his sword for ‘the Special One’, with his words, coming after a vote of confidence from Roman Abramovich and co, showing Stamford Bridge is in-sync from the top down.
“I have spoken to all of the players and they all feel the same way about Jose. I don’t like giving interviews, but I’m speaking for the group. We all feel the same way about Jose,” concluded Costa, having brushed away questions about Mourinho’s abrupt nature.
The manager must of course face criticism for allowing the team to comeback late from summer celebrations, though reportedly did so due to concern about lack of squad depth and burn-out. With Chelsea’s transfer history with squad players and January emergency buys poor, they may do well to stick with the current crop.
As for the rest, fitness can be fixed and form improved, but morale is a different beat all-together. On this evidence, the Blues seem well-placed to pull together for a top four place. Expecting anything more at this point would be wishful thinking, but the Blues are not out for the count yet.