Conte counts Costa missing Diego

DR EVA CARNEIRO and Diego Costa do not have a lot in common. One, a beautiful woman who cared for the injured; the other an ugly duckling of a striker seemingly hell bent on causing carnage.

But when the modern history of Chelsea is written, the two may be inextricably linked. The arrant disdain with which they have both been jettisoned by respective managers will go some way to explaining the Blues' post title-winning woes.

It was the shocking manner in which Jose Mourinho reacted to Carneiro merely doing her job that antagonised the entire club and triggered the slide that saw them finish 10th and cost Mourinho his job.

Similarly, Antonio Conte's text message telling Costa he was no longer wanted has raised doubts about the Italian's judgment and inter-personal skills. It may have been less public but it's having a more direct impact on the team.

To see a Chelsea striker bullied by an Arsenal player deemed surplus to requirements in the summer was a sight for sore blue eyes. And it epitomised a role reversal that saw a rejuvenated Gunners do 'a Chelsea' on their erstwhile nemesis. It was the first point they'd won at the Bridge in six years.

Shkodran Mustafi came close to being sold in the transfer window but his mastery of Alvaro Morata on Sunday drove the Spaniard to distraction – and ultimately a yellow card. You just know it wouldn't have happened to Costa.

If the Brazilian-born scrapper had been on the field, that would have been the role reversal. It was Costa's uncanny knack for niggling opponents as much as his goals that gave opposing defenders the heebie-jeebies when they saw his name on the teamsheet.

Similarly, his presence lifted his teammates. When you have a grumpy, combative b*stard on your side, you feel you always have a chance. Without their battering ram up top, the champions have not been the same.

Morata has not done badly overall and is undoubtedly a class act. But he is a completely different animal to his adopted countryman – a sleek gazelle to Costa's charging rhino – and Chelsea are missing those fearsome horns.

With Costa, they could play one up front; with Morata, they cannot and with only Michy Batshuayi, whom Conte does not appear to rate, as an alternative, the result is plain to see – Chelsea are nowhere near the force they were.

To be fair to the manager, he did not want Morata in the first place but another big beast in Romelu Lukaku. But once the Belgian was stolen from under their dithering noses by Mourinho, Chelsea had to change plan.

Clearly, Conte, who was also vehemently opposed to the sale of Nemanja Matic to United, is not calling the shots in the transfer market – it is technical director Michael Emanalo.

It's a strange way to run a club, let alone one as big as Chelsea, but Roman Abramovich does not appear to mind the chaos. It was a lot more chaotic than this where he made his fortune.

Still, he would not have enjoyed the bad publicity when Carneiro won millions with her law suit, and Costa is said to have lawyers on his case. But whatever the cost in court, it is loose change to Abramovich. Not so on the field where entire seasons can be wasted.

For Arsenal, it was a surprising step toward redemption. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka were also much-improved and there was more energy without the languid Mesut Ozil. Still, it was a disappointing derby and there was nothing in this game to worry the table-topping Mancunians.


GOOD – Sergio Aguero. The little Argentine bagged another hattrick to reach 175 goals for City, only two behind the club record of Eric Brook. Pep Guardiola's effusive comments about him being a legend are a bit overdue. Of course he is – he's the greatest City player of all time. What is a little worrying is why it has taken Pep so long?

BAD – Crystal Palace. What a way to start the season! It's the longest by any Premier League club without scoring a goal. Lucky to have had Big Sam to save them last season, Palace go from no nonsense to sophisticated continental in managers and expect their players to do the same. Ron de Boer did well at Ajax but was never the right fit for up and at 'em Palace. But is Roy Hodgson? At 70 he's old enough to be the players' granddad and has been out of the game for two years. Never the most inspirational figure, it smacks of panic by a board who seem to be making it up as they go along.

STUPID – A smile-ometer next? The cameras seem to spend a lot of time on Alexis Sanchez when he's on the Arsenal bench. Perceived as making a rueful smile when his teammates collapsed at Anfield, he has now deemed to have committed the heinous crime of laughing at teammate Lacazette's awful miss. From a hint of disobedience to downright rebellion. Really, can't the guy just be allowed to sit on the bench without having his every thought process examined for possible insurrection?

UGLY – David Luiz. His crashing into Sead Kolasinac was brainless and makes it five red cards in their last eight competitive games for Chelsea. But at least he showed a bit of spark – largely missing from those around him. The Blues were seventh in the Fair Play league last season as they kept their disicipline but since the title was clinched they've been seeing red. FA Cup final, Community Shield and now the League. It tends to happen when they're not playing so well. And, surprisingly, without Costa.