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Diego Costa vs Didier Drogba: An in-depth analysis of the two strikers

Comparing the numbers between the former and current Chelsea strikers.

Diego Costa
Diego Costa started his career in London with a bang

It was 30 August 2014 and Chelsea just spanked Everton 6-3 away at Goodison Park. That night Diego Costa grabbed a brace and was in lethal form. Chelsea had just bought the striker from Atletico Madrid for £32 million, which was a bargain as compared to high-profile flops like Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres. Diego Costa was on fire and Stamford Bridge was buzzing after his sizzling performances. The then 25-year-old Spanish forward was new to England and could barely speak the language. 

When Didier Drogba was interviewed and asked about Diego Costa back in 2014, he said, “Diego Costa has started very well. He looks special. He’s scoring goals and helping the team. He’s settled right in - and he’s started much better than I did!” 

It’s not about comparing Drogba’s legendary achievements at Chelsea to Diego Costa because the Ivorian striker has won four Premier League titles, scored in numerous cup finals and of course won the Champions League for the Blues. Obviously, Diego Costa has a long way to go before being considered as a Chelsea legend but he’s got all the right elements and stats going for him. 

Drogba has by far, been the most prolific striker in Chelsea’s recent history scoring 164 goals in 381 appearances. In the Premier League, Drogba has a games per goal ratio of 2.44. What is a stark difference is Diego Costa’s games per goal ratio – Costa scores a goal for Chelsea every 1.6 games. Not only is Diego Costa’s games per goal ratio better than Drogba’s but it’s the best ratio in Chelsea’s entire history in the Premier League era. 

Costa scores faster than Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (1.97), Mark Stein (2.38), Hernan Crespo (2.45) and Gianluca Vialli (2.76) ever did. 

Third season wonders for Drogba and Costa

Didier Drgoba
Drogba was the best striker in the Premier League for a number of years

Comparing Didier Drogba and Diego Costa at the same stage in their Chelsea careers i.e at 63 Premier League games, Drogba had scored 27 goals. Diego Costa in comparison has 39. In their third season after nine games, Drogba had scored five while Diego Costa has scored seven. 

Drogba finished his third season with 20 Premier League goals, so Diego Costa, in theory, should score more but only time will tell. The Spaniard is already leading the Premier League’s scoring charts at this stage of the season. 

There has been much said about Diego Costa’s attitude and behavior but what people fail to remember is that Drogba was pretty much the old villain for Chelsea. His famous slap on Nemanja Vidic in the 2008 Champions League final got him a red card which meant that the final penalty would be taken by John Terry instead of him. 

Drogba toned it down over the course of time, so there is still hope for Diego Costa, with many suggesting that the Spaniard has behaved considerably better under Antonio Conte.

Costa has played in Spain for more time than in England while Drogba has played more in England. 

The goals broken down

Diego Costa
Diego Costa seems to be back to his best this season

Breaking down how each striker scores his goals according to WhoScored – Since 2009, Drogba has scored 87 goals with 54 from his right foot, 19 from his left foot and 14 from headers. In comparison Diego Costa has scored a tally of 112 goals with 66 from his right foot, 28 from his left foot and 18 from headers. Since 2009, Diego Costa has scored 28.7% more goals than Drogba. Costa is simply ahead of the Ivorian in goal scoring prowess.

Going a step further and analysing in what situations their goals are scored – Drogba is more lethal at set pieces than Diego Costa scoring 20 of his goals from set pieces, now obviously this is because the Ivorian used to take free-kicks while Costa does not and as a result has only 8 (not taking them). But from open play, Costa has scored 69 while Drogba has only 51. On the counter attack – Costa has 12 to Drogba’s 6. While at penalties they are tied with nine each. 

As per Whoscored, Since 2009, Diego Costa has taken 563 shots while Drogba has taken 697. And surprisingly Diego Costa has played more games at 238 to Drogba’s 195. 

Further looking into the total shots taken per game –  Diego Costa takes 2.36 shots per game while Drogba takes 3.57. Drogba takes considerably more, scoring lesser goals. Diego Costa takes lesser shots and has scored many more goals. He is more lethal than Drogba when it comes to finishing chances. 

A critical ability of any striker is their conversion rate mainly – Number of goals scored to total shots taken. 

Since 2009 Costa has a conversion rate of 19.8% while Drogba has a conversion rate of 12.19%

It is worth mentioning that these stats are only from 2009, as available on WhoScored. So Drogba has played in easier leagues towards the end like in China and the MLS in the USA. While Costa has played either in La Liga or the English premier league. Also, Diego Costa is considerably younger and is hitting his peak. 

While the stats certainly favour Diego Costa, Didier Drogba has scored more goals in big matches, and the number of goals he has scored in cup finals is much higher than Costa’s. The Ivorian is a big game player while Costa has got injured a lot in big games at Atletico and Chelsea. 

A legend at Chelsea

Didier Drogba
Drogba is a legend at the club

Drogba is a club legend and will go down in history as perhaps one of the greatest strikers ever at Chelsea. But the man in his shadow, the man known for general villainy and skullduggery, Diego Costa is seemingly on a crash course to pip Drogba’s status, at least the statistics say so. 

Didier Drogba became an icon in Munich and cemented himself in Chelsea folklore forever, which is a feat that will be very difficult for Diego Costa to emulate. 

Drogba took some time to start scoring at a high rate whereas Costa has got off to a flying start. If Costa maintains this momentum then there should be no stopping him in beating Drogba’s tally. 

An interesting point to note is that Drogba’s teammates were Arjen Robben, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele, the sort of players of very high quality. 

It remains to be seen whether Diego Costa can help Chelsea win more trophies than Drogba did. The Spaniard is in great form this season and has considerably improved his behavior under Italian boss Antonio Conte. With Chelsea’s new system of 3-4-2-1 in place, Costa is linking up with Eden Hazard more and should result in more goals scored by the Spaniard. 

Only time will tell if Costa can emulate the feats of Drogba, but he surely has the upper hand of a better start.

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