Chelsea have agreed to sell Diego Costa back to Atletico Madrid, but at what cost to their title hopes given their success with him?
Costa’s 59 Chelsea goals have been instrumental to them winning two league titles and a League Cup in his three years at the club.
His brutal bullying style has spearheaded Chelsea’s success and that, allied with his snarling demeanour, has come to epitomise the culture of Chelsea’s football.
The fallout with Stamford Bridge boss Antonio Conte made Costa’s exit inevitable, but will Chelsea be the same without him?
If Chelsea had replaced Costa with Romelu Lukaku they would have been swapping like for like, bringing in another beast of a striker. Chelsea could have retained their forceful playing style.
But new striker Alvaro Morata is a different kind of centre forward. Slight, elusive and technical, Morata’s physique means that Chelsea have to change their playing style to suit him.
Morata is certainly scoring goals so far, with three strikes in his opening five league games, but while Chelsea still had Costa there was scope for him to ease differences with Conte and return to the fold. Not once he leaves there isn’t.
Chelsea lost the FA Cup Final to Arsenal, even with Costa scoring. Chelsea lost the Community Shield to Arsenal too, with no Costa available and Morata missing a penalty in the shoot-out.
And Chelsea have now failed to beat Arsenal in a home league game for the first time since 2011, given the recent 0-0 draw, where they also failed to score under Conte for the first time.
For Chelsea to land the title, they can no longer rough-house opponents through Costa. They will have to learn finesse through Morata.
Chelsea’s brutal edge has gone with Diego Costa leaving the club and it might not be enough to maintain a title challenge.