Chelsea fans jeering Diego Costa just as they did Didier Drogba - but can he respond the same way?

Dan Levene compares Diego Costa to the great Didier Drogba - both for better and for worse.


Stamford Bridge groaned at one of its own as the crowd lost its patience withChelsea striker of proven ability and his tiresome antics.

No, not Diego Costa: this was 25th March 2006, and the focus of the ire Didier Drogba. Almost a decade on, however, and the reigning champions' crowd reflected that moment of utmost frustration with its latest in-house irritant.

Back in Mourinho's first spell, that moment with the Man Who Would Be King focused on the Ivorian's gamesmanship, diving in the box and getting away with a handball; on Saturday against Norwich it was Costa's poor positioning and lackadaisical play that riled the faithful.

The record books will show that Costa's goal - a well taken pinpoint strike across John Ruddy's target - was what gave Chelsea a very sorely needed three points following three straight league defeats.

But Costa's game, for the most part was abject.
Chelsea's Diego Costa in action with Norwich's Sebastien Bassong and Gary O'Neil - Reuters
We've seen a lot of it in recent weeks: moving out wide to the corner flags; being off the pace when the ball comes through from midfield.

The moment that so annoyed at Stamford Bridge on Saturday was a finely-crafted cross from a rejuvenated Eden Hazard to where the target man might usually be expected to dwell.

The Spanish international, however, was back in the 'D' of the box – acting as if playing number 10 was one better than his own posting of number nine.

It would have been a great position for the Frank Lampard of yore – awaiting the second ball, the deflection, the clearance – but not for Diego Costa, the man whose poaching and defence-harrying skills are so great that Chelsea were acclaimed to have bagged a bargain when they forked-out £32m for him.

It was as if Mourinho needed to take his centre forward back to basics, to explain that the words 'centre' and 'forward' were of equal importance in his job title.

As the twin incidents with Drogba and Costa proved, 10 seasons apart, there are two things Stamford Bridge knows it doesn't like: a cheat, and a non-tryer.

Drogba was rarely accused of not trying, but the gamesmanship in his locker that led his own supporters to say enough was enough was pretty quickly ditched after that moment.

That's not to say that he never once dived or feigned injury again, but the supporters seemed to be content to tolerate those things so long as they didn't overshadow real ability.
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba celebrates his goal on Marh 25th, 2006 - Reuters
Costa's problem, until recently, was believed to be similar: the tricks of the trade eclipsing the ability we all know he has.

But, against Norwich we did see that ultimate of offences in the eyes of the fans: the player who clearly doesn't want to be there.

The shoulders went down, even the arguments with opponents became half-hearted, and the failure to shift gear when it mattered was the straw that broke the camel's back.

When the goal came, of course, it was a beauty: almost perfectly taken, and picking out the far corner in a way few would be able to stop.

Only 'almost' perfect, though. There was a brief hesitation before striking, prompting 40,000 half-gasps, all fearing this might be another case of what golfers call The Yips. But the ball found the net.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa celebrates scoring on 21st November 2015 - Reuters
Drogba, initially defensive about his antics being "part of the game" in that match, where he scored the only two to sink Manchester City, quickly saw better of it.

So will Costa? The goal, muted celebration and all, clearly added confidence to his game.

He is just one of a number of players in Mourinho's current charge who need to be reprogrammed, to remember what he is supposed to be doing.

Players often say that they block out the sounds of the crowd – ignoring the intended offence of the paying public. But what if that offence is from your own, and aimed at improving the game of the individual and the team?

Drogba was smart enough to understand the value of that. We will have to wait and see if the same is true of Costa. Dan Levene

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