Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Chelsea striker Diego Costa is even more dangerous this season — after managing to “clean up his act.”
The two London clubs resume their rivalry at the Emirates on Saturday, with Costa having taken on the role as the Gunners’ latest chief tormentor after being involved in two red-card incidents in their league fixtures last season, which were both won by Chelsea.
The first incident at Stamford Bridge saw Gabriel Paulista sent off for retaliating after the Spain striker had first put his hand in the face of Laurent Koscielny and then squared up to the Brazilian centre-back.
Costa was retroactively handed a three-game ban for his antics, but that was too late to prevent a 2-0 win for Chelsea. And at the Emirates in January, Costa drew a clumsy challenge from Per Mertesacker that earned the German defender a straight red card — and scored the winning goal minutes later to secure a 1-0 victory.
This season, Costa already has five goals in five league games and has toned down his antics somewhat — even though many thought he was fortunate not to get sent off in the team’s first two matches.
“I think he’s a very strong player. He looks to have, since the start of the season, cleaned up his act and that he behaves [like he’s] more focused on the game. That makes him more dangerous,” Wenger said. “Of course I like him as a player, yes. I like the qualities of the player, and all the rest around [him] is not needed.”
Costa joined Chelsea in the summer of 2014 after leading Atletico Madrid to the title in La Liga and the Champions League final. Costa had been linked with Liverpool the previous summer, but Wenger said he had not pursued the striker as he didn’t think there was a chance the Spanish club would sell.
“I never thought he would leave Atletico Madrid at that time. I was surprised,” Wenger said.
The Frenchman wouldn’t comment on suggestions that Costa’s fiery temper would make him unsuitable to Arsenal, but said he didn’t believe the forward’s game would suffer if he loses some of his feistiness.
“I don’t think so. I think you want the full commitment of every single player. But commitment is different from this kind of overreactions,” Wenger said.
“He’s a fighter. And you respect that. But the rest is down to the referees to get the game respected and the rules respected. Everybody plays with his character and his personality. And you’re only good if you play like who you are.”