[Stats] The Remarkable Turnaround in Diego Costa’s Behaviour

Diego Costa quickly earned a reputation in England for being a fiery and unpredictable player shortly after joining Chelsea in 2014.  Or ‘a cheat’ as many non-Chelsea supporters referred to him as.

The Brazilian-born Spanish international arrived in the Premier League off the back of his first break out season in professional football, scoring 27 goals in 35 La Liga appearances to help Atlético Madrid cause a huge shock in winning the Spanish title.  He’d also helped them reach the UEFA Champions League final that season too but was substituted after only nine minutes due to a hamstring injury picked up a week early.

That same hamstring injury appeared to slow Costa down at the 2014 World Cup too where defending champions Spain were eliminated after their first two group games.

Diego Costa hit the ground running in his debut Premier League season, scoring a remarkable nine goals in his first seven matches with only Manchester City shutting him out during that run.

In all, he ended the season with 20 goals in 26 league appearances.  But he’d missed 12 games of the season.  Four of those came through suspension and the remaining eight were two different injury spells – one his hamstring and the other his thigh.  Chelsea were Premier League champions.

Move forward to last season and nothing worked for Chelsea.  José Mourinho couldn’t get anything right, the defence that had been so solid the season before had fallen apart and Eden Hazard had been a shadow of the PFA Player of the Season.

Diego Costa scored 12 goals in his 28 Premier League appearances as Chelsea’s sole striker and picked up eight yellow cards in the process.  A red card in the FA Cup loss to Everton also meant he served a three-man ban in the league.  Of the 10 league matches he missed last season, six were through suspension.

Chelsea’s failure to qualify for Europe led to Costa being linked strongly with a return to Atlético Madrid over the summer but incoming manager Antonio Conte refused to sell.

Atléti are currently down in sixth place in La Liga, some 12 points off rivals Real Madrid, whilst Chelsea head into today’s match at Crystal Palace six points clear of the back.  Perhaps Costa is relieved Conte didn’t want to sell him.

What’s more, the 28-year-old looks like a changed man ever since Antonio Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation.  The striker had opened the season with four yellow cards in Chelsea’s opening six league games – one short of a suspension.  During that run the Blues had taken only 10 points.

Then came the switch in tactics.  In those following 10 games Chelsea have taken maximum points, Diego Costa has been involved in 11 goals (7 goals, 4 assists) and he hasn’t picked up a single yellow card.  If he avoids a booking in Chelsea’s next three games his four previous will be wiped for the second half of the season and he doesn’t have to fear about a suspension looming over his head.

The stats below make compelling reading:

Season Games Played Goals Assists Shots per Game Chances Created Per Game Fouls per Game Yellow Cards Fouled per Game
2016-17 16 12 5 2.9 1.8 0.9 4 2.8
2015-16 28 12 6 2.4 1.1 1.5 8 1.8
2014-15 26 20 3 2.9 1.6 1.3 8 1

Diego Costa is on course to score more goals than he has in either of his previous two seasons, one assist shy of his personal best already and is committing fewer fouls per game than in his previous two seasons.  What’s more interesting is that he is controlling his temper because he’s actually being fouled a lot more than he is used to.