?Chelsea boss Antonio Conte could do no wrong in the eyes of Blues supporters after the remarkable tactical switch that ultimately won him the Premier League title in his first season at Stamford Bridge.
The FA Cup final loss against rivals Arsenal that followed did little to taint the Italian’s growing legacy, and the image of Diego Costa kissing the club’s crest after his equalising goal in that match certainly made it seem like all was fine and dandy between striker and manager.
That was until the Spanish forward revealed that he’d received a WhatsApp message from the boss letting him know that he was no longer needed.
A whole lot has happened since then. Costa has returned to Atletico Madrid after a dramatic and seemingly never-ending saga, perceived target Romelu Lukaku has joined Manchester United, and the Blues have replaced the fiery Spaniard with Alvaro Morata.
Morata became the? club’s record signing last summer, coming in from Real Madrid for £58m, and it seemed a bargain of a price, compared to the fees flying around the transfer market nowadays.
The 24-year-old got down to business immediately, scoring and assisting a goal on his Premier League debut, and going on to record seven strikes and two assists in his first seven appearances for the Blues.
Morata soon earned high praise from all over, with many comparing him to compatriot Fernando Torres when he signed for Liverpool. There were also comparisms to both Costa and Didier Drogba, while the Blues were also commended for buying the ex-Madrid man instead of Lukaku.
To be fair, Morata is more of an all-round striker than the aforementioned, save Drogba. He’s great in the air, obviously knows his way around the penalty box, can create chances for himself, has great footwork an immense link-up ability.
The Blues seemed to have done some great summer business in landing the Spaniard. He single-handedly won them a highly competitive match against United last year, scored a late winner against Bournemouth in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup, and there’s also the huge equaliser he scored against Atletico Madrid during the Champions League group stage.
As things stand, though, Morata hasn’t scored in his last six appearances for Chelsea, despite the myriad of chances that have come his way. His performance in the recent 2-2 draw against Arsenal was quite the mess, and he missed three clear chances against the Blues’ rivals, much to the annoyance of the supporters.
‘At least he’s more disciplined than Costa’ is something that could have been said in his defence some time ago. Yet after 30 appearances, the Spain international has already racked up seven yellow cards, as well as a red, and has also been suspended for an accumulation of yellows, much like his fiery compatriot made sure to do every season.
No real difference there, innit.
Of course there’s plenty of time for Morata to sort himself out, but he’s not making things easy for Conte, who could already be feeling regretful over that text message.
As controversial as Costa was during his time at the Bridge, the striker got results. Six of his 20 league goals last season came during the last 10 minutes of matches, five were winners, while one saved the Blues blushes by securing a draw, following a deficit.
Chelsea started the year off on a very tame note, failing to win a game in 90 minutes until Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Brighton on Saturday, a match Morata missed as a result of the red picked up during the FA Cup replay against Norwich in midweek.
Surely, the pugnacious Costa would have won Chelsea at least one of those drawn games.
Morata hasn’t been that bad of a signing, though, and his potential is clear to see. He’s scored 12 goals since joining the Blues, 10 less than Costa’s tally from last term, and is certain to score a few more as long as he remains healthy.
He has also had a better start to life at Chelsea than Drogba had, and has already scored as many league goals as the Ivorian registered in the entirety of his first campaign. He’s also just four goals away from Drogba’s total for that season.
Ultimately, Morata could go on to become a Chelsea legend, but for now Conte appears to have lost out in his gamble, and would have probably been better off keeping Costa under his wing.