Costa the Drama Queen Still Causing Mourinho Angst

Published: 22nd November 2015 09:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd November 2015 09:26 AM   |  A+A-

Jose Mourinho says he has no "right" to expect new signings. But there was a "wrong" in need of urgent remedy. It went by the name of Diego Costa and involved a goalless run that had stretched to 603 minutes before Norwich City's defence fell asleep and Chelsea's pugilist-striker finally found the net.

Mourinho's chances of finishing this Premier League season in a non?embarrassing position were improved by a 1-0 win that featured something of the old resolve. But the Costa problem is unlikely to be cleared up quickly. A 63rd-minute finish from a Cesc Fabregas free-kick changed Costa's luck, but will it change his attitude?

Like a child shaking an Etch A Sketch, Chelsea gave their heads a good rattle this week, with Michael Emenalo, the technical director, telling the Telegraph's Sam Wallace: "Right now, the statement from the owner and from the board comes from a belief that we are in a position to trust a manager who has delivered so much. We are in a position to trust a group of players who have delivered in the last couple of seasons. We are in a position to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and therein lies our confidence... that we can get out of the situation."

Wrapped inside this clever comment was a vote of confidence and a warning to manager and players to earn that "trust." It seemed to work, with Eden Hazard back to his old buzzing self, Nemanja Matic more composed, Fabregas more conscientious and John Terry more confident than of late.

Added to which, the 19-year-old Kenedy made an excellent first league start at left-back and Kurt Zouma showed more glimpses of what a classy centre-back he is going to be.

But the front of this Chelsea side is still a worry, despite Costa's first goal in seven games, which broke the first run of three consecutive defeats under Roman Abramovich's ownership.

Costa's pattern has been excessive truculence, drama queenery around the penalty area and a lack of conviction in his finishing.

None can be consigned to history - especially his habit of falling over under the slightest contact rather than fighting for the ball and getting his shot away. Mourinho was effusive about Costa afterwards but his body language during the game told a different story.

Three minutes before half-time in a game that Chelsea started from 16th place in the table, Kenedy curled in a low cross which Costa thought too long about before smashing a shot at John Ruddy's foot. Mourinho turned to someone on the Chelsea benches and shook his head slowly and repeatedly to convey exasperation.

Of all the 41,000 souls in this stadium Mourinho was best qualified to see what many of us also suspect: that Costa, in his current state, is a long way short of what Chelsea need, even if top-class centre-forwards are in short supply across the Premier League.

Though his very first act in this game was to shove Ruddy, the Norwich keeper, a more pressing problem was his pacifism when challenged by Sebastien Bassong in the penalty area.

Instead of winning that private battle and trying to score, Costa elected to collapse and appeal to the referee like a cowboy hiding behind the sheriff.

Mourinho was cross with him several times. An order to hunt in a pair with Hazard (rather than drift alone across the front line) was delivered with considerable angst. For the first hour alarm bells rang. A cross from Pedro was lifted over by Costa right in front of the posts. Another Pedro ball into the six-yard box found the diminutive Willian jumping for the header while Costa watched from afar.

The first instinct of these Chelsea players in the opening 45 minutes was not to look for Costa, who spent too much time in wide areas. This apparent lack of confidence in him seemed significant. They may feel he is too easily distracted by his second career as a Greco?Roman wrestler, and could sense he had lost his edge in front of goal.

After half-time they looked for him more. And the breakthrough came when Fabregas prodded a free-kick through the middle and Ryan Bennett oversold himself in defence, this allowing Costa to cut back in and curl a winning goal from left to right.

Emenalo also said last week, of Mourinho: "Maybe we have to find a better way to help him, to work with him, a better way within the hierarchy, myself, the chairman [Bruce Buck] in presenting our case, when we feel that something hasn't gone the way we expect it to."

This is the new approach. Mutual support and understanding. It was the only way, after politics and recrimination threatened to engulf the season.

Mourinho would have us believe this patience extended to Costa. But it will surely not last through two more transfer windows.


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