Chelsea striker Diego Costa returns to the Premier League tomorrow after a three-match ban against a Burnley side against whom he scored his first goal in English football.
Sixteen more goals have followed for the Spain international striker, who had, at times, faced controversy due to his robust approach.
Clarets boss Sean Dyche is a huge fan, however, and is delighted to see a physicality return to a position which had gone away from that trait in recent times.
Dyche said: “He’s a very good player. There is no two ways about it.
“He’s adapted really well. Players coming from other countries seem now to adapt quicker, but years ago they took time to adapt.
“He has a toughness to him. He’s arguably like how we would imagine an old-fashioned centre forward in his mentality and the way he goes about it.
“I quite like that I don’t think that will ever go out of fashion and he does it very well.”
Teams seemed to move away from that target man type, and Dyche added: “It’s not coming back, what I mean is it’s morphing into one striker. They had to be a jack of all trades. They could dominate with physicality, hold the ball up, bring others into play, get in the box, work between the lines.
“About 10 years ago we were told that strikers had to do this and the other, but it has come back to still needing a front to the team.
“Centre-halves are getting bigger. I used to be deemed big at just under 6ft 1in – these boys now.
“Look at our two are 6ft 2ins to 6ft 4ins appears to be the norm now.”
And he refutes the reputation Costa has earned for bullying defenders: “Absolutely not. He just mans up. He plays in a manly manner that we were used to growing up. It softened away.
“He is sort of bringing it back, along with (Olivier) Giroud. Didier Drogba when he came over to Chelsea was big target man. It’s not ever gone away but trends change.
“I think there is a maturity to his game. This is modern football and that is how it is. Simulation has been debated endlessly. You see it every single week in the PL. Whether you like it or not. Costa generally speaking – it is for the powers-that-be to decide, but I think he has adapted very quickly with his all-round game.”
Worrying for the league, Dyche feels he can continue to improve: “Absolutely no doubt he can. I’m open-minded about my players and I’m 100% sure that Jose Mourinho is open-minded about his. You only need players to have open minds and then you’ve got players who want to learn and improve. He certainly looks like a player who is improving.
“When you are young it starts with the real basics. As you get older you don’t forget the basics, like a piano players warming up still playing the scales then he will go into all his tricks and trails. When you are young you learn the basics then you start to be flexible and learn new skills. As they get older it’s about tactical changes. At 21 you are set with your technique and skills, tactical understanding comes later and physicality and mentality grows.”
Burnley’s own Ashley Barnes, while not being compared by any stretch to Costa, is of a similar ilk - teammate Kieran Trippier described him recently as “horrible” to play against in training.
And Dyche has been delighted with the way he has adapted to the league as well: “People questioned whether Barnesy could handle the Premier League, well he’s doing a pretty good job of it. He can be awkward to play against but he too has some real quality. His finishing is very good and he’s learning how to operate at this level. You can see and Costa will be doing the same thing.”
Asked whether he can take pointers from Costa, Dyche added: “No I say look at what Ashley Barnes does because it is important that he knows what he is about. Learns to use it wisely because that style of learning is better because he is focussing on what he does and what he is going to do in the future.
“You might pinch some ideas, but a lot of learning is self-learning. Not enough of that goes on any more in academies. You are de-briefed straight away and don’t have the time to go away stew on it – good or bad news. Bad news was often better because you would re-run it a thousand times in your head. Now you already show them the answer before they work out the answer by playing.”