Three games. Four goals.
That’s Diego Costa in a nut shell.
Chelsea fans be forgiven for forgetting they had a certain Fernando Torres in their ranks until just a couple of days ago. Remember him? The former Liverpool man whom Chelsea bought for a whopping 50 million, only to receive an embarrassing series of performances week-in and week-out that made Andriy Shevchenko look like a Ballon D’Or and Heisman winner rolled into one.
They might even be forgiven for committing the cardinal sin – gasp! – of consigning the memory of the newly returned Drogba firmly to the past.
But how great is Chelsea’s star striker? Sure, he managed to turn Torres into an afterthought, packaged and delivered at Milan’s doorstep on loan for a period long enough to guarantee the blonde Spaniard isn’t going to return. Ever.
But in all honesty, Torres’ fate was sealed last season as Chelsea capitulated to one minnow after another in the absence of any venom up front. Any half-decent striker was going to replace him, and put him out of business. Costa hardly deserves credit for ensuring the inevitable happened.
Costa has injected much potency in a Chelsea side that had begun to believe it was the midfield’s responsibility to get the team on the scoresheet. Heck, even the defense was expected to chip in regularly. Heaven forbid the front line be asked to put the team ahead!
The goals have come this season freely and with – if you consider the Everton game – reckless abandon. Costa is now the league’s highest scorer, for now at least. That’s an honor Torres has never come even remotely close to claiming that honor even for a week.
Except for the arrival of Cesc Fabregas, this is a rather unchanged midfield. Prior to Cesc, there was Lampard – another orchestra conductor par excellence. And Chelsea’s midfield has kept creating one goal-scoring opportunity after another in virtually every game, these past several seasons. So what else – other than Costa’s magical feet – would explain the near absence of goals from the Chelsea frontline in the past couple of seasons, and the sudden goal-scoring overdrive the Blues find themselves in?
It’s going to take a lot of convincing to make even the most die-hard Diego Costa fan believe that Lampard was markedly inferior to Cesc Fabregas, and that the rest of the midfield suddenly upped their game in time for this season after one summer spent mostly toiling away at the World Cup. What emerges then is a more plausible explanation that Chelsea’s midfield has always been capable of delivering the goods and their efforts have largely gone in vain thank to the most inept bunch of strikers assembled since the French advance guard in World War 2.
In Diego Costa, Chelsea have a good striker. Not an earth-shatteringly brilliant one, but a good striker who – on his day – can be devastating. It says a lot about True Blues low expectations that any striker who finishes his chances is worthy of admiration hitherto reserved for Mandela and Gandhi.
It’s equally conceivable that another striker fed the chances that Chelsea’s midfield so routinely creates might have done reasonably well too in the circumstances, as long as said striker’s last name isn’t Torres, Eto’o and Ba.
Fernando Torres’ chief flaw was that he, a bit like a Bluetooth device, was coupled so closely with an artist of precision like Steven Gerrard that he looked better than he really was. Thrown into a side that required him to do at least a portion of the work, Torres collapsed like a house of cards with a foundation of sand.
Did Torres repay Chelsea in entirety with that fortuitously well-taken goal against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final? Chelsea fans certainly felt that way when the Blues went on to lift club football’s biggest trophy in the finals. As seasons pass, and the weight of that moment ebbs away, it’s only natural Torres’ contributions warrant a sterner observation.
Torres was a loyal servant of the club, but even his biggest well-wisher will admit his tenure at Chelsea was one that could have gone infinitely better. The club should be grateful for his services, his occasional goal and the work-rate he tirelessly exhibited.
Diego Costa will also be especially grateful to Fernando Torres. Torres paved the path for his exploits to be viewed as greater than they truly are.
Chelsea’s new hitman is good. But his predecessor’s record already makes Costa the legend he hasn’t truly become yet.