Among the many wide and varied reasons for Chelsea’s shocking collapse this season has been the goal drought experienced by key striker Diego Costa.

The 27-year-old’s stats so far are a clear cause for concern, with just two goals in 10 league starts as well as three yellow cards and a retrospective three game ban for violent conduct following September’s heated derby with Arsenal.

Over the corresponding period last season, Costa scored 11 goals in just 10 starts from Chelsea’s first 12 Premier League games, picking up four yellow cards along the way.

A £32 million signing from Atletico Madrid, Costa was Jose Mourinho’s long-term target. Mourinho saw his faith in the striker repaid with 20 goals in 24 league starts last season as Chelsea won the title. A telepathic understanding with fellow new boy Cesc Fabregas, who provided assist after assist for his teammate, led to Blues supporters purring that both players looked like they had been playing together at Chelsea for years.

So what has gone wrong?

In fairness, his scoring opportunities have been restricted by the wayward form of the creative midfielders behind him. Fabregas has been a huge disappointment, for example. The 28-year-old has mustered just a solitary assist in Chelsea’s first 10 Premier League games and his poor performances have forced him to settle for a starting place on the bench for Chelsea’s past two matches. Similarly, Eden Hazard has been underwhelming. Only Willian has played at a consistently high standard, but much of the tigerish Brazilian’s potency has come from set-piece situations rather than pass and move.

Costa’s disposition can be likened to a street fighter and that hasn’t helped matters during Chelsea’s struggles. He is easy to wind up — it doesn’t take much for the pugnacious side of his nature to come to the fore as Arsenal defenders Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel found out in September’s fiery clash at Stamford Bridge.

Concern about the once prolific scorer’s form and temperament are acute enough to have led to rumours that Chelsea are considering a January move for Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain. The 27-year-old Argentina international played for Mourinho at Real Madrid and has been linked with a move to England in the past.

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The question is whether Higuain’s arrival at Stamford Bridge would be to bolster Mourinho’s anaemic striking options or replace Costa altogether. Last season, when the Chelsea forward was injured or suspended, the Blues boss had veteran Didier Drogba to call on and the majestic Ivorian didn’t let the side down, scoring the opener in the 1-1 draw at Manchester United, a goal in the 3-0 win over Tottenham and also in April’s crucial 3-1 win at Leicester.

Drogba left after helping Chelsea secure the title and moved to Montreal Impact in Major League Soccer, where he has scored 13 in 15 league appearances to date.

With Drogba gone, Mourinho took a huge gamble and completed the loan signing of Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, who flopped in his Premier League debut season with Manchester United, scoring just four times. With Falcao continuing to look a spent force and Chelsea’s other recognised striker Loic Remy not an ideal fit for Mourinho’s system, it’s clear the Portuguese needs to make some changes.

Costa’s track record suggests that he can be a vital match-winning cog for any team he plays for but he needs players around him who are on top of their game.

Born in Brazil but a Spain international, he has so far failed to impress at international level, scoring just one goal in nine appearances. But Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, speaking ahead of Friday’s international with England, doesn’t seem too concerned.

“We need forwards who create space, move, commit defenders and occupy them — and Diego does that,” said Del Bosque. “We’ve not had much luck with him but there’s nothing that goes against our style.”

Should Costa take his place in Spain’s starting XI against England this Friday, Chelsea supporters watching the game will monitor his performance closely — as will Mourinho, no doubt.

As the beleaguered Chelsea manager continues to retain the faith of his employers and the majority of Blues fans, so too should Costa. Talk of replacing either man for now remains premature but football is a results-driven business and both Mourinho and Costa will be well-aware of the respective threats to their positions if Chelsea’s fortunes do not improve.

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