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Diego Costa celebrates after scoring for Chelsea in the closing moments of their game at the Liberty Stadium, against Swansea in the Premier League. (Photo by Robert Melen/Icon Sportswire)
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Is Diego Costa back for Chelsea?

(Robert Melen/Icon Sportswire)

At the beginning of the season, it seemed that Diego Costa’s days at Chelsea could be numbered.

After a disappointing 2015, the Chelsea striker had seemingly overstayed his welcome at Stamford Bridge. At times last year, Costa seemed far more concerned with antagonizing the opposing defenders than doing his job and scoring goals.

Additionally, new manager Antonio Conte brought in striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille in one of his first moves with the club, and it appeared the Blues could bring in another striker before the end of the transfer window. Another new man at striker would have sealed Costa’s fate, and likely sent his bags packing.

However, despite heavy rumors, none of those striker transfers materialized, and now it appears that Conte made the right move in keeping the Spaniard.

Through four games this season with Chelsea, Costa has notched four goals, a total he didn’t reach until Boxing Day last season. Under Conte, it seems Costa’s passion for the game is renewed, and his physicality has been dominant thus far in the Premier League. Costa has been able to push defenders off the ball in a way he couldn’t last season, and his goal-scoring has ratcheted up as a result.

While a striker’s primary job is scoring goals, it is likely not the first thing many fans think of when they envision Diego Costa’s game. Thus, it’s been extremely impressive how well Costa has kept his temper in check — a massive testament to Conte’s leadership as manager.

Through four games, Costa has averaged just one foul per game, compared to the 1.5 he averaged last season. Additionally, Costa has yet to get a yellow card this season, which is certainly a sign that he has kept his emotions in check and not allowed them to get the best of him.

This kind of play has Chelsea fans wondering if Costa has finally figured it out. Is the temperamental striker finally maturing at age 27?

Every sign certainly points to that.

Not only are Costa’s disciplinary statistics down, but his willingness to share the ball is massively improved. Last season, Costa was criticized heavily for taking on defenders, oftentimes unsuccessfully, instead of passing to the open man and keeping the attack going. Statistically, this is evidenced by the 2.5 times per game last season that Costa was dispossessed by opponents. This year, that number is down to just 1.8 dispossessions, a massive improvement from a year ago.

Thus, Costa has turned himself into a disciplined, physical, striker, who loves to take defenders one on one, but is becoming a more willing passer seemingly every week. By blocking out his typical distractions, Costa has turned himself into a force in the Premier League.

Nowhere was this more evident than Chelsea’s game against Swansea this past weekend, where Costa was abused by Swansea defender Jordi Amat all day. While the old Costa may have reacted, 2016 Costa remained cool, calm and collected, allowing the Swansea defender to bury himself in yellow cards and fouls, while he scored a brace on the day.

If this is a sign of things to come, Chelsea fans should be ecstatic.

Obviously, it remains to be seen if Diego Costa can keep up both his goal scoring and his good behavior, but it’s clear the 2016-17 Premier League campaign is off to a good start. If Costa can maintain his confidence and cool head throughout the season, Chelsea have a very legitimate shot at the title this season — which would provide their fans with some serious redemption following the embarrassment of last year. For a team used to success, that would be a welcome change.

Is Diego Costa back for Chelsea?

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