Are Chelsea Getting An Upgrade on Diego Costa In Álvaro Morata?

Are Chelsea Getting An Upgrade on Diego Costa In Álvaro Morata?
Jul 20, 2017

Chelsea Featured

Yesterday evening, news broke that Antonio Conte had finally got his man Álvaro Morata, with Chelsea announcing on their website that the club had agreed a deal with Real Madrid to purchase the Spanish international. A player who Antonio Conte had signed whilst at Juventus at the start of the 2015/15 season, Conte never had the chance to see Morata flourish under his guidance, with the Italian being appointed the Italian national team manager before the Spaniard took to the field.

The Diego Costa saga has hit Chelsea hard this summer, with texts revealing Conte’s way of telling Costa that he was no longer wanted at the Bridge, meaning prices for strikers have been inflated for Chelsea who were desperate for a top class replacement.

Yet, Chelsea have seemingly managed to secure a cut price deal for Morata, with the fee rumoured to be around £58 million, rising to £70 million with add ons. Although £58 million may sound a lot for a player who played second fiddle at Real Madrid this season, Madrid wanted Manchester United to pay £75 million for the 24-year-old, suggesting Chelsea have got themselves a bargain.

However, will this bargain buy manage to fill the gap left by Diego Costa, who scored 52 goals in the past three seasons in the league helping Chelsea win two titles along the way? In my opinion, yes. Although his statistics may leave some still wondering whether Morata is a good buy, his style of play and big game mentality will serve Chelsea well in the future.

Diego Costa is a handful upfront, constantly chasing defenders down, winding up players all over the pitch, and the Spaniard is a great striker to have in your artillery. At 6ft 1, Costa may seem like the perfect target man to have in a the 3-4-3 system Conte uses, with Costa being the focal point of all attacks, with his ability to hold up the ball one of his key assets. So will Morata be able to replicate this style of play? He stands at 6ft 2, making him taller than Costa, with his aerial play something which will keep defenders worrying all game long. Morata scored the second most goals from headers last season whilst also taking the third most shots within the box in 90 minutes, only being bettered by Ronaldo and Messi.

Costa bullies people physically and mentally, but Morata’s constant appearance in the box will keep defenders backtracking for the whole 90 minutes, allowing Pedro, Hazard and Willian to run in behind as Morata will draw defenders away from their positions. Along with this, Morata’s passing accuracy is higher than Diego’s, at 79.1% on average compared to 75.2%, once again meaning Morata is more than able to link-up play with his team mates.

Costa’s goal-scoring record is one to be desired by any striker, scoring 20, 12 and then 20 goals in the past three seasons respectively in just 89 league matches. A rate of 0.58 goals a game, Costa is one of the main reasons clubs all around the world are getting their chequebooks ready to sign him, should Chelsea finally sell the wantaway striker. Morata’s goal scoring record in La Liga and Serie A is no match to Costa’s but this is an unfair critique, with Morata deployed as a squad rotation player at both Juventus and Real Madrid. At Juventus, Morata scored 15 goals in 63 matches across two seasons, however, 36 of those appearances were as a substitute. On a positive note, Morata did manage to tally up 12 assists during that time. once again showing his link- up play is one of his strengths, which is needed in Conte’s 3-4-3 system.

At Real Madrid last season, Morata enjoyed his best goal scoring season in the league, notching up 15 goals making him Real’s second highest league goalscorer last season. And yet, his 15 goals and 4 assists came within 26 league matches, with 12 matches as a substitute. Thus, although 46.2% of Morata’s game time was as a substitute, the Spaniard managed to score on average o.57 goals a game. Just think about what Morata could have done if he had started more games and wasn’t behind Karim Benzema in the pecking order at Real. Therefore on the face of it, 30 league goals in the past 3 seasons may not look impressive but considering out of the 89 games he played, 48 of them were as a sub. Given the chance to be the main man for a club, with wingers like Hazard and Pedro either side of him, Morata has every possibility of replicating or even bettering Costa’s record at the Blues.

Moreover, in the Champions League, Europe’s elite competition, Morata really shows his class, which is a major factor for why Antonio Conte made him a number one priority in the past two summer transfer windows. With Chelsea back in the Champions League, having not participated in last season’s due to finishing 10th in the 2015/16 season, Conte knows he needs a player who can perform on the highest stage and Morata has shown that in abundance.

In his first season at Juventus, the Turin side managed to get to the final, only being beaten by Barcelona in the final 3-1. During that year’s competition, Morata scored in both semi final legs against parent club Real Madrid whilst also netting an equaliser in the final. In total, Morata chipped in with 5 goals in 12 games that year. The following season Morata netted twice in 8 games, with Juventus being knocked out early by Bayern Munich. Although only scoring and assisting twice, Morata’s brilliance still shone though; after picking up the ball on the half way line, Álvaro skipped past 3 Bayern players with the ball in a super jinking run and eventually fed through Juan Cuadrado who fired home. In last season’s Champions League campaign, Morata was again restricted playing time, coming off the bench 8 times and only starting one match but he still managed to find the net 3 times and assisted once in 167 minutes of total game time.

When you compare that to Diego Costa, Morata stands out. In his last season for Atlético Madrid, Costa scored 8 times in 9 games which is phenomenal. However, after that, his stats nose dive downwards. In his debut season at the West London club, Costa failed to score in 7 games for Chelsea. During the 2015/16 Champions League, Costa scored twice in 8 games, starting 7 of them. Consequently, it shows that Morata is more consistent on Europe’s biggest stage and if given sufficient game time under Conte, Morata will outshine anything Costa managed in Europe during his Chelsea career.

Finally, big game mentality. Playing for the most successful English club in the past 10 years, Chelsea need players who can hold their nerve and guide them on all four stages; Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League. Costa proved his worth in big matches, scoring in last seasons FA Cup final, scoring in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in the 2015 League Cup final and in the league last season, his 20 goals helped win Chelsea 15 points, with crucial goals against West Brom in a 1-0 win, an 89th minute winner against West Ham, an 87th minute winner against Watford to name just a few.

So can Morata live with the pressure as Chelsea’s main man? For Spain, Morata has 9 goals in 20 international caps, with 3 of those 9 coming in Euro 2016 suggesting he can perform on big stages and deliver. For Real last season, Morata earned his side 13 points with his goals, only Ronaldo earned more for Los Blancos. His Champions League record speaks for itself, with goals in semi-finals and finals showing he can hold his own against other big name players.

Although losing Costa will be a bitter blow for Chelsea fans, with his outlandish behaviour something which made him a fan favourite, finding a suitable replacement might have just been solved. Morata has big shoes to fill at Chelsea, with this being the first time he will be the main striker for a club. With no Premier League experience, the media’s gaze will be constantly on him to see if he lives up to his £58 million price tag, which makes him the third most expensive Premier league of all time. On the face of it, his stats might not seem impressive but given time to adapt to the league, Conte will get the best out of the young Spaniard and we’ll see that he is a competent replacement for his outgoing countryman Diego Costa.

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