John Obi Mikel believes Chelsea team-mate Diego Costa’s scintillating early-season form can be put down to a desire to prove his critics wrong following a disappointing 2015-16 campaign.
Costa is the current joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League ahead of the Blues’ match with Liverpool on Friday after scoring four goals in as many league matches under Antonio Conte.
The Spain international is already just eight goals behind his league tally in what proved to be a difficult campaign for the striker last season.
And Mikel reckons Costa is out to silence any doubters he picked up during his struggles by proving his class under Conte this term.
“I definitely think he can get even better, “He can score more goals, he can help the team even more, but Diego is a player that likes to find and doesn’t give up.
“He knows that everyone had a bad season last year so I think this season he is trying to prove people wrong and he has started well and hopefully he will have a very good season.”
Costa, 27, has come in for some criticism over his conduct on the pitch, though, after racking up three yellow cards in four games so far this season.
After Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea last weekend, Chelsea boss Conte claimed Costa is being targeted by opponents and Mikel has offered an insight into where his aggression comes from.
“I think Costa is a very emotional player,” he continued. “He likes to win and he wants to win. He wants to be better than the opponent and there’s no problem with that, but I think with his emotion, a lot of clubs have seen that and have maybe, yes, come into target him.
“Some come in to provoke him and try to get him sent off. At the same time, he wants to win and that is what makes him the player he is today, if you take that from him he won’t be the same Costa.
“You have to give him that freedom to express himself but sometimes you have to pull him back a little bit and tell him to calm down. You definitely don’t take that away from him, he is an emotional player, let him express himself and play the way he wants to play.”