Guus Hiddink says Diego Costa “likes to fight — in a good way” and warned any defenders facing the Chelsea striker that trouble awaits.
Costa scored the decisive goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Arsenal on Sunday, not long after being tripped by Per Mertesacker, who saw red after just 18 minutes.
The striker has six goals in six games under Hiddink, who hopes he will shake off a knee problem which forced his early withdrawal at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger again bemoaned the influence of Costa, who antagonised the Gunners last September when Gabriel saw red.
But Hiddink was grateful Costa focused on football and delivered.
“He is important, because he’s focusing on his first job,” the Dutchman said on Chelsea TV.
“If you have to play him as a central defender, then you are a bit in trouble.
“He likes to fight - in a good way - and he’s got his credentials.”
Hiddink expressed admiration for Arsenal’s style, but praised his men for not allowing the Gunners to play before calling on Chelsea to be more consistent.
“I like to see them play, but our credit was not to have them play,” he added.
“We were having an unbeaten run of games, but there were some draws and also some games where we had to come back.
“The team reacted very well, but that’s not enough. I want a team that’s not having this negative score.
“We want to be proactive. We must be more consistent in getting the wins we need.”
Meanwhile Petr Cech called on Arsenal to move on from the disappointment of another defeat to Chelsea to steer their Premier League title challenge back on course.
The next two home Premier League matches will be a further test of their title credentials, against Southampton and Leicester, as Arsenal are bidding for a first championship since 2004.
“We are only three points off the lead and have Leicester and Southampton at home coming up,” Cech said.
“They are difficult games but if we can keep winning our games, we can go back to the top.”
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