What’s Going on in the Chelsea Forward Line?

Written by John Kent

With the Paul Pogba transfer seemingly coming to an end, other names are beginning to catch the attention of the English Press, not least Romelu Lukaku and Diego Costa, with their fates seemingly intertwined.

The current Chelsea incumbent 

Over the last couple of years, the name of Diego Costa has rarely been away from the headlines, especially in their title winning campaign under Jose Mourinho, where we saw the magnificent, not least 7 goals in his opening 4 games, as well as various suspensions and injuries that have come to define him perhaps more. No one can deny, that despite his 20 goals in that season, seen as the benchmark for any top striker, Costa often frustrated. In Mourinho he perhaps found a kindred spirit, a manager who would allow him to be his ‘fighter’ on the field, but this patience would perhaps not last, not least as rumours of his discontent with life in London begin to surface a little to often for the Portuguese Manager’s liking.

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credit Aleksandr Osipov

Mourinho cited these personal problems as reasons for allowing his centre forward a prolonged break leading into the defence of their title; a mistake the ‘special one’ may continue to rue to this day. Costa returned overweight, and without that fighting spirit that so enamoured him to the Stamford Bridge Faithful; Costa would only score 5 goals leading up to the New Year, one less then the amount of games he would miss through suspension throughout the campaign – it would seem the love affair was at straining point!

It is no surprise then that Costa’s links to Atlético Madrid have re-emerged in the last couple of weeks, and Conte has certainly done nothing to dampen the rumours. Whether the arrival of Kevin Gameiro at the Vincente Calderón puts pay to these stories – I personally have my doubts. In Simeone there is a manager who knows how to get the best of a player who rarely looks at home, and it could be a move that makes a lot of sense for both parties.

Something Old, Something New….

Who then to replace Diego Costa? Chelsea wasted no time in paying upwards of €30m for Batshuayi from Marseille, a Belgium that seemingly is constantly linked with Tottenham Hotspur’s in recent years. The 22 year old is an attacker with pace in abundance, and whilst 17 goals in 36 games last year hardly labels him a ‘poacher’, he is not yet ready to be considered amongst the elite in terms of finishing. It is this reason that makes me believe Lukaku is the perfect choice – never has there been a player in world football so lethal in front of goal at the age of 23, whilst he is certainly no slouch either; the FA Cup quarter final performance against the team trying to sign up certainly will live long in the memory. Many Chelsea fans are saying that they should not go back to player they let go a couple of seasons ago for just £28m, but they neglect the fact that this is the season of the returning player with both Morata and Pogba, and that he was let go under a completely different regime. At the end of the day stats do not lie, and a player who has scored almost 1 in 2 for a struggling Premier League side in the past couple of seasons would enhance pretty much any attack in League. Conte could quite easily combine the two Belgians, though with neither particular adept at playing out wide, it would mean the 3-5-2 combination we have heard mentioned in the press being utilised. This would certainly be of interest to whoever is named as Belgium’s new manager, as he looks to fit his abundance of attacking wealth into a single 11.

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credit Wshjackson

Other Considerations

Many Chelsea fans would love the new manager to use the much heralded Chelsea Youth Teams, with the name Solanke never being far from the tongue of any aficionado. Conte certainly has past form for using young players, he has already cited Pogba as an example. Whilst this possibility should not be discounted, I do not believe Costa will be allowed to leave with two players with a grand total of zero premier league games between them to lead the front line. Should Lukaku not be brought in, a more sensible alternative may be some such as Mario Mandzukic, who has played under Conte with some success in the past.

The Business of Getting Things Done

If this transfer market is proving anything, it is that a player is worth whatever the buying club is willing to pay. In the case of Chelsea, if it will take £70m to buy a player who will shoot them to the Champions League, do not be surprised to see it happen. Costa should be allowed to leave, he could prove the divisive figure in the dressing room that Conte will be so desperate to avoid, and in Lukaku he will have a replacement who knows the league, and will arguably have a bigger impact from the off.

Chelsea fans, what do you think the club should look to do? Should Costa leave? Would Lukaku be the answer? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image by Aleksandr Osipov