Talking Tactics

Golden Boot race: Efficiency key for Costa

Adrian Clarke 18/05/2017
Antonio Conte and Diego Costa, Chelsea

In the first of a series on this season's contenders for top scorer Adrian Clarke looks at Diego Costa's improvement under Antonio Conte

The race to become top scorer in this season’s Premier League will go right down to the wire this Sunday featuring four familiar star names.

Adrian Clarke assesses the Golden Boot contenders, starting with Chelsea’s Diego Costa.

Costa has been fitter, more focused and inspired this season, reaching the 20-goal mark with one match left to play. It is a marked improvement on his 12-goal tally of 2015/16.

Performing within a confident and fluent Chelsea side has clearly made it easier for the Spaniard to shine, but the player himself deserves credit for channeling his aggression constructively.

Costa has played an extra 648 minutes en route to the title, but committed the exact same number of fouls (43) as last term.

Holding on to the ball with more assurance and testing his markers with better runs, he has earned his side considerably more free-kicks, too. The foul count on Chelsea’s striker has risen from 49 to 88, which shows he has been a real handful.

There is one misconception, though. Under Antonio Conte, Costa has not worked any harder (see table below). He has simply chosen more opportune moments to apply his energies.

Diego Costa, Chelsea
The repertoire of finishing of Diego Costa, here scoring against Stoke City, has been wonderfully varied

Costa's running stats

Season Distance per 90 Ave speed Sprints per 90
2015/16 9.8 6.07 62.3
2016/17 9.8 6.12 63.0

Costa’s repertoire of finishing has been wonderfully varied.

Many of his strikes have stemmed from trademark one-touch efforts from close quarters, but he did net long-range strikes against West Ham United and Southampton, and a fabulous scissor-kick at the Liberty Stadium was another standout moment.

Able to run in behind, use his strength to fend off defenders, or beat them with skill, the Chelsea front man is a quality all-round forward.

Perhaps the pick off his strikes this season was the driving run, double one-two, and silky footwork to score a superb individual goal at home to Southampton last month.

Chelsea's Diego Costa scores against Southampton
Diego Costa scored a superb goal against Southampton last month

Costa's goal breakdown

Breakdown 2016/17 2015/16
Right 13 9
Left 5 3
Header 2 0
Inside 10 yards 16 12
From 11-18 yards 2 0
From +18 yards 2 0

In general play, Costa’s link-ups with the perky Eden Hazard and Pedro have caught the eye, but these two have only set up three assists for the Spaniard between them.

The surging runs of Nemanja Matic (three assists for Costa) and the exemplary vision of Cesc Fabregas (four) have delivered the pick of his supply line.

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