[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite losing the Community Shield to cross-town rivals Arsenal at the weekend, Premier League champions Chelsea will enter the upcoming 2015-16 campaign as firm favourites and the team to beat.
José Mourinho has forged a squad of proven match-winners during his second tenure at Stamford Bridge, with quality all over the park for the outspoken Portuguese manager to select from.
A trademark of a Mourinho team is a slightly unsavoury character or two, who usually counteracts the individual brilliance and attacking intent of other members of the side.
At Porto, Chelsea the first time, Inter and Real Madrid there has always been a physical, uncompromising facet to the Portuguese trainer’s sides, with this Blues outfit no different.
Although fearless leader John Terry acts as the talisman and Serbian pair Branislav Ivanović and Nemanja Matić add brawn, it is clear that tempestuous forward Diego Costa has become the focal point for a defiant Chelsea team with an ‘us against everyone’ mentality.
The Brazilian-born Spain international has always played his football on the edge, with a physical side to his game complementing excellent movement off the ball, precision finishing and able hold-up play.
On the same level as someone like Sergio Agüero, Costa is equally as able a goalscorer as the Argentine but fits into the psyche of a player that Mourinho desires.
Although the former Atlético Madrid man’s 20 Premier League goals played a significant role in the West London outfit being restored as English champions last season, it was the uncompromising manner of his play that was equally and arguably more important.
Chelsea’s strikers over the years have been a mix of the great and the underwhelming, with Didier Drogba the most successful of them all.
The confident Ivorian shared attributes with Costa; a physical presence, a diverse goalscorer but also at times an unsavoury opponent for the rest of English and European football.
On the other hand, nice-guy figures such as Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres failed to deliver at Stamford Bridge and left as unmitigated failures.
These two forwards are no flash-in-the-pan players; they are Ballon d’Or and World Cup winners – some of the most prestigious players of a generation.
However, it appears that to fit into the Chelsea forward line, a bit of bite is a pre-requisite.
This fact was painstakingly clear during the West Londoners’ defeat at Wembley on Sunday, with neither Loïc Rémy nor Radamel Falcao providing the same level of physical presence as Costa would have had he been fit to play.
Like Shevchenko and Torres before them, this international duo have prestigious reputations in the world game and given a consistent chance at most clubs would deliver goals and plenty of them.
Rémy offers pace in-behind opposition defences that has been an asset for the teams he has played for throughout his career, while Falcao has proven himself as one of the most lethal poachers in the global game.
That said, neither are the Mourinho posterboy that is ready to incite opposition centre-backs, taunt the opposing fans, get into the face of a marker or be the man to lead the charge of a team that their manager continually claims are victimised.
Costa is understandably loved by Chelsea fans as much as he is loathed by everyone else, which in itself proves just how much of an important cog in the Blues machine he is.
With sluggish pre-season showings and the Spaniard not available ahead of this weekend’s Premier League start, the Blues do not look quite the ominous beast that steamrollered allcomers last term.
For Mourinho and Chelsea to continue their assault on English and European football, Costa remains an essential player for the team, despite the array of other world-class stars in the Stamford Bridge squad.
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