While noteworthy incidents may have been a bit thin on the ground, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho still had a few choice words to say about Diego Costa’s booking during his side’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday, which the striker received for hitting Wes Brown in the face with a flailing arm.
“Brown is very experienced and he used his body,” Mourinho claimed in the aftermath of the match.
“They can frustrate a striker and can also be clever enough to get cards. But no problem. It’s a yellow card. He doesn’t play against Tottenham.”
This is textbook Mourinho – deflecting the attention away from the offending culprit, his own player, and onto the innocent victim of the opposition side. The truth is that Costa was fortunate not to be shown a red card in the game, as he escaped censure for lashing out at John O’Shea in the first half.
Players have been sent off for committing lesser offences than Costa’s two transgressions, and Mourinho must secretly be thankful that the suspension his star striker has picked up for his fifth booking of the season will only see him missing one match, and not any more than that had he been red carded.
And so Chelsea will head into their midweek game against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge without their top scorer and outstanding performer of the campaign so far. For all the talk of Chelsea’s brilliant unbeaten start and Manchester City’s early-season struggles, City are only six points behind Mourinho’s men. The Blues will be desperate to secure three points in Wednesday’s London derby, although many will feel that the task has been made significantly harder by Costa’s ill-disciplined actions.
However, it is possible that being forced to cope without Costa – albeit for just one game – will be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea. A team that has aspirations of winning the title cannot become overly reliant on one player, and while it would be a bit of an exaggeration to claim that the Blues are entirely dependent on their centre forward, his goals have been crucial to Chelsea’s imperious start to the campaign.
It is therefore important that the league leaders have an effective Plan B in place, and given Costa’s tendency to pick up cards – not to mention his well-documented injury concerns – the likelihood is that they will need to implement this secondary strategy on a number of occasions before the season’s end.
While Didier Drogba is always a useful asset to have on the bench, Chelsea’s real second-choice striker is Loic Remy, and the game against Tottenham represents an excellent opportunity for the Frenchman to make his mark and for Mourinho to get a taster of how his side fares without Costa. The 27 year-old is a hugely underated footballer and it is baffling that Liverpool decided not to sign him due to apparent fears over his fitness, however he has been given few chances to start for Chelsea, making just three appearances in the league.
Although Remy will realistically always be an understudy to the main man up front, he can still play a significant part in what is shaping up to be a successful campaign for the Blues. Chelsea will inevitably have to call upon his striking prowess in the absence of Costa throughout the season; with this in mind, the game against Tottenham on Wednesday is a great chance for him to prove his worth, and for Chelsea to show the rest of the league what they are made of even without their most dangerous attacking threat.
What do you think? Follow me on Twitter @GruffuddOwen