Diego Costa still has a long way to go, according to new Chelsea coach Conte
Antonio Conte has told Diego Costa that he still has plenty of room for improvement, as Chelsea prepare to start their season with him up front.
Chelsea have spent all summer trying to buy Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku but have not managed to conclude deals for either. Costa had hoped to return to Atletico Madrid this summer, but could not with no replacement coming in. This means that Costa will lead the line for Chelsea against West Ham United this evening.
Conte is determined to make the most of this situation, and has been pushing Costa especially hard in pre-season to get him up to peak fitness. But Conte knows that Costa still has a long way to go, and told the Brazilian striker that he must work hard in training and, just as importantly, on the pitch for the team.
"Diego Costa is a great player and I know that he is a fantastic finisher," said Conte in his press conference at Cobham on Friday afternoon. "I think that Diego can improve still a lot. Now he is a fantastic player, but he can improve a lot. I hope for this."
Conte is a coach with a very clear sense of what he wants from his players, especially in terms of physical fitness. That is why he has changed the Chelsea players' diet, as well as working them so hard in training. While he would not set Costa a target in terms of goals for this season, Conte demanded that all of his players give everything for his cause.
"I ask all the players for the right attitude, right behaviour and commitment," Conte said. "I am sure about this. It's important that the players, when we play, that we play our football. Not another football."
What Conte means specifically is that Costa must work hard for the good of the team, leading the line and wanting the ball, rather than just lurking in wide areas.
"Diego is a forward," said Conte, laying out his demands. "He knows that in my idea of football, the forward must always be a point of reference for the team. I don't like the forward to move around the pitch. I like him to stay there. Because you are a forward, and your commitment is to score the goals, to stay in the right position. You are a forward, not a midfielder, not a defender."
Conte clearly wants a lot from Costa, more than he has seen in pre-season, but said that as long as Costa works hard then they can still have a successful future together.
"I'm happy that Diego stayed here to work with us," Conte insisted.
"We know we can improve through the work, and the player has been fantastic for me.
"I hope to continue in this way."
- Chelsea v West Ham, Barclays Premier League: Stamford Bridge, 8pm