Player profile – Luis Suárez vs Diego Costa

Soccer is full of individual skills, as each player has it’s own specific characteristics that fit in the game model, idealized by the coach.

In this context, it’s possible to find players that play in identical positions but with distinct profiles. Luis Suaréz and Diego Costa have three common characteristics – impetuosity, position and offensive quality. In everything else, they have different individual attributes.

Comparison – Luis Suárez vs Diego Costa

Analyzing the numbers of the two strikers in reference seasons, we will compare the season of 2013/2014 where Luis Suárez was the top scorer in the Premier League with 31 goals scored with the season of 2014/2015 also in the Premier League, where Diego Costa scored 20 goals. 

The numbers prove that Suárez had an atypical season for a forward, having been considered one of the best in the World in his positioning, and for that FC Barcelona payed more than 80 Million € for his pass. With an average of 5.5 shots per game in 2013/2014 against 2.9 of Diego Costa in 2014/2015, the Uruguayan was superior in every other indicator: 2.8 dribbles per game against 1.5 of Chelsea´s striker and 1.8 possession losses against 2.7. Regarding the key passes, a new victory for Suárez with 2.7 against 1.6. In the fouls suffered Suárez averaged 2 per game and Diego Costa only 1. Suárez was also the leader in the assists, 12, against 3, although Suárez had play 7 more games. 

Graphic 1: Comparison between 2013/2014 Premier League of Suaréz and 2014/2015 of Diego Costa (OPTA data)

Comparing the numbers of the current season, their performance is more alike. Not because Diego Costa is superior, but because Luís Suárez normalized his performance, as at FC Barcelona he has no longer a reference role like he had at Liverpool FC, sharing now the space of action with Messi and Neymar. 

In this season the number of games it’s exactly the same, 27, but the Uruguayan takes advantage again regarding goals and assists with 23 successful shots and 10 assists, against 17 goals and 5 assists for Diego Costa. In the shots, Suárez continues to win, 3.6 per game against 3.2, as well as in the key passes with 1.7 against 1.1, and also in possession losses, 0.7, against 3.1. In the other chapters, Diego Costa has been better with 1.8 dribbles per game against only 1, 0.6 disarms against 0.3 and 2.6 fouls against 1.4.

The player´s specific profile and the tactical behavior of their team can explain this difference. 

Graphic 2: Comparison between 2016/2017 La Liga of Luis Suaréz and 2016/2017 Premier League of Diego Costa (OPTA data)

Player profile

Regarding positioning, scoring, defensive contribution, technical ability, reading of the game, among others, Suárez and Diego Costa have different characteristics. 

Diego Costa has been improving his performance this season, being considered a key player in Antonio´s Conte game model, scoring 17 out of 60 Chelsea goals. He is the main offensive reference for the “Blues” but he is also capable of getting down on the field and start fast transitions. He plays  better inside the box where he can find space to score through aerial and both feet.

Image 1: Diego Costa allways very aggressive fighting for space inside the box

His speed allows him to get back and provide depth to the team, that often goes for fast transitions. It’s not usual to see him out of his position, because that way he can’t take advantage of his  strengths but also because in lower areas the space belongs to Ces, Hazard and Willian. Diego Costa stands in a forward position to provide freedom to his team mates.

Image 2: Diego Costa understands where we can get in the last third and explores the space between the center backs

Very important defensive contribution, forcing the opponent to make a mistake, not giving space and time to think, due to a strong pressure.

Image 3: Diego Costa  with the ability to condition and pressure the opponent´s build up 

As pointed out before, Suárez shares the space of action with Messi and Neymar, main offensive references, and because of that his influence in the team decreased, comparing to Liverpool times. Nowadays, Suaréz is a more mature player and has a more collective game idea.  He is able to fall into a lane and drag the marking with him, opening spaces for his team mates to show up in the back and finish.

Image 4: Suárez with the ability to fall on the tracks, understanding the timing and realizing the right moment for the pass

Suárez knows how to read and interpret the moments of the game, getting down on the ground to support in the phase of construction and help in fast attacks. He can receive between the lines and go on a dribble, and even in numerical disadvantage he can be successful.

Image 5: Suárez with an oriented reception between the lines, faces the goal and goes for the dribble

The Uruguayan realizes he has no advantage in the air and that he hardly could win the duel. He simulates that he´s going to dispute the ball in the air, retreats a few meters to gain position and in a clever way he knows that the second ball will fall in his zone and goes for a first touch finish. 

Image 6: Crossing to the box and Suaréz with enough intelligence to understand where the second ball would fall and shots for the goal

Diego Costa is more deadly with the aerial game within the area, but also with the ability to give depth to the team. Suárez has a better decision ability and tactical reading. Two great scorers with completely different characteristics.

Note: The data presented have been updated on April 4. 

By Francisco Gomes da Silva