With seven games to go the blue side of London will be inevitably celebrating a 2nd title in three years. It makes sense then this time of year the pundits scour the lineup of the eventual Champions for a worthy “Player of the Year” candidate.
As a matter of fact, Chelsea have two names on the shortlist for the award – Eden Hazard and Ngolo Kante. It’s a choice of veggies or cake. The much bandied fact that Kante has guided two separate teams to back to back trophies in the most competitive league in the world has not gone unnoticed – even though he patrols the unheralded trenches. Hazard, in contrast has strong allergies for said trenches yet smothers the headlines as the attacking class of the side.
But is Hazard even Chelsea‘s most important attacking player? SoccerSurgery compared the contributions of a seemingly forgotten man, cartoon villain Diego Costa, when it really mattered most this season.
Do all goals matter? No not really. A winning goal in a tight game, especially against a key rival matters more than a stoppage time goal against the lesser sides. Think we can all agree there. If so, Costa has been involved in the more important goals this season.
Here are the key results that won Chelsea the title, the respective winning goal scorer and (provider of the assist for the goal):
- October 23, 2016 – Manchester United (H) [4- 0] – Pedro (Alonso) and Cahill(none) in the first half.
- November 20, 2016 – Middlesborough (A) [1-0] – Costa (None).
- November 26, 2016 – Spurs (H) [2-1] – Moses (Costa). Pedro (Matic) equalized after Eriksen opened affairs.
- December 3, 2016 – Man City(A) [3-1] – Willian (Costa). The gamewinner came after Costa (Fabregas) equalized.
- December 10, 2016 – West Brom (H) [1-0] – Costa (None).
- December 13, 2016 – Sunderland (A) [1-0] – Fabregas (Willian)
- December 17, 2016 – Crystal Palace (A) [1-0] – Costa (Azpillicueta)
- January 31, 2017 – Liverpool (A) [1-1] – Luiz (Hazard). Costa penalty miss.
- February 4th, 2017 – Arsenal (H) [3-1] – Alonso (Costa). Hazard(Costa) added the second.
- March 6th, 2017 – West Ham (A) [2 -1] – Hazard (Pedro). Costa added the second to secure the points before West Ham scored.
- April 5th, 2017 – Manchester City (H) [2-1] – Hazard (penalty). Hazard(Azpilicueta) also opened the scoring after an Aguero Equalizer.
Do you see the trend here? Costa by a wide margin is the catalyst in most of Chelsea’s key victories on the season. Arguably Pedro or Willian on the other side have been as influential as Hazard whose biggest contributions came when the title race was done and dusted per most observers.
So why is Hazard second in overall betting odds for PFA player of the year and Costa not even nominated? Your guess is as good as ours but let’s look at possible counterarguments.
Has Hazard been a hugely more creative attacking force? Sure. His 64 chances on the season leads the team by a wide margin. But if chances created was enough to get one onto this PFA shortlist, Hazard lies 9th amongst all players in that category, even still trailing Dmitri Payet (74) who has been playing in another league since January. Does Hazard have monster assist totals? He only has just 5 so far which is equaled by same Diego Costa.
When it comes to bulging the old onion bag, Costa’s 17 goals on the season carry even a pinch more weight when you factor that Hazard(14) takes all the club’s penalties and converted two for the season.
Costa’s exclusion, in the face of all this evidence, no doubt has to be all about personality or more specifically villainy. His fellow players hate him. If you were unaware, the PFA awards have been running for 44 years with ballot forms delivered to players of each Premier League club. The only restriction of course is that players are not allowed to vote for anyone in their own team.
The players have their prerogative of course, as did the Brexit voters, but the hope here is the more objective Premier League Player of the Year panel correct this injustice. As a side issue and though he would never admit it there is no doubt in our mind this lack of respect from Costa’s colleagues, right or wrong, contributes to his “dissatisfaction with life in London“. All players need love and recognition from the media, fans and even peers.
Inside the Chelsea dressing room however they would probably tell you what all right thinking observers would know – this title is due to the work of many but special mention doesn’t belong to Hazard or even Kante but rather to the team’s engine going forward – Diego Costa.