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Conte counting on Costa to improve and lead Chelsea's title challenge

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One of Antonio Conte's go-to themes so far at Chelsea has been his intent to improve not just the team's fortunes, but each and every individual player's fortunes as well.  From the biggest stars to the youngest prospects, the new head coach wants to work, work, work, fight, fight, fight, and get better and better and better.

It's a noble intention, though also necessary.  If Chelsea are to meet minimum expectations, everything and everybody will have to improve.

"I think that in this league it's very tough, and I think that at the moment six, seven, eight teams can fight to win the title. And I'm sure Chelsea is a good team and we must work very hard to be in the six, seven teams that fight for the title."

-Antonio Conte; source: Sky

After a summer of constant will-he/won't-he transfer rumors, not to mention a poor season overall, Diego Costa is just one of many who has to get better for Chelsea to succeed.  For him, that will mostly mean goals scored or created or contributed to, though the boss is more keen for stylistic and tactical improvement over any specific goals target.

"Diego is a forward and he knows that, in my idea of football, the forward must be a point of reference for the team. I don't like that a forward moves around the pitch. I like him to stay there [in the box] because you are a forward and your commitment is to score goals and to stay in the right position. You are a forward - not a midfielder, not a defender."

"I don't like to speak about single players but I will make an exception. Diego is a great player. I know that he is a fantastic finisher but I think he can still improve a lot. I hope for this. I try to improve all of my players. Their past is not important to me and now, I am seeing a good attitude from Diego - to work and to improve in different situations."

"I am happy that Diego stays here to work with us. We know that we can improve through the work and the most important thing is that the players have put themselves into this idea. Diego can give a lot to this team and I am sure he will have a good season."

We saw a less talented Graziano Pellè excel in just such a role at Euro 2016; surely Costa can understand and execute it just as well, if not better.  The role might change slightly depending on number of strikers and midfielders, but Costa would be serving as the focal point in either scenario.

"Diego always shows a great passion and I am the same. He doesn't want to lose. I like this passion and I want to put it in the team. It's important to have passion for your work, for your football. It can help you to get over difficulties. I like this commitment - that the players work very strongly for the team.

"I ask Diego for this and I demand this of him. I never ask [specific goal targets] of my strikers but I ask Diego and all the players to have a great attitude. Then, the goals arrive. I am sure of this. It's important that the players play our football, not their own football."

-Antonio Conte: source: Guardian

Conte may not be scared of losing but he clearly can't easily reconcile not winning.  Diego Costa will be a crucial part of Conte's restful sleep at night.