Arsene Wenger regrets missing out on the signing of Diego Costa as he looks to quell the Chelsea’s striker’s rich vein of form against Arsenal on Saturday.
Costa has two goals in three games against the Gunners, all resulting in Chelsea wins. The Spain international notoriously wound Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista up to the point in last season’s meeting at Stamford Bridge that the Brazil international was sent off for lashing out at the former Atletico Madrid man.
Costa fired Chelsea to the title with 20 goals in his maiden Premier League season and has five goals in as many games this time around under Antonio Conte.
Arsenal fans often complain at Wenger’s inability to attract a star striker to the Emirates Stadium and the Frenchman admits his club failed to realise a deal for Costa could have been in the offing when he left the Calderon for London two years ago.
“I never thought he would leave Atletico Madrid at the time, I was surprised,” Wenger said.
“Would I have made a harder play for him had I known? Yes. I like him, as a quality striker.”
Costa’s altercation with Gabriel ultimately earned the striker a three-match ban retrospectively and the spiky Spaniard is often involved in spats with opposition players.
He was the match-winner at the Emirates last year, drawing a foul that led to Per Mertesacker’s dismissal before scoring the only goal of the game.
And Wenger hinted at an admiration for the striker’s hardened edge ahead of this season’s rematch.
“You want full commitment from every single player,” he. “But commitment is different from these kind of over-reactions. He is a fighter and you respect that. The rest is down to the referees to get the game and the rules respected.
“He is similar to [Didier] Drogba because he’s a top-quality player.
“I cannot put it on Costa the fact that we got caught last year [at the Emirates]. It was more the tandem – [Cesc] Fabregas, Costa – which was very dangerous for us.
“Fabregas found him quickly with his runs. In the first incident [last season, at Stamford Bridge], we were a bit guilty of reacting [to Costa]. But in the second, we were caught tactically. Mertesacker had only the opportunity to try to tackle. He got rightly sent off.”
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