This follows on from an article in the MEN a couple of days ago looking at our defensive partnerships over the 2009/10 season so far, and nicely revisits this post I did (on the old blog) last season. It is particularly topical given that in the next couple of weeks (when Richards, Kompany and Lescott will all be fully fit) we will have a full compliment in the central defensive department.
Whereas the MEN article (which rated Toure and Kompany as the leading pairing) grades the defensive partnerships on their average ratings whilst playing as a pair, I've looked at the cold, hard facts; goals against and overall record.
So far this season we have conceded 37 goals in 30 games at an average of 1.23. We have seen some spells where we have been tight at the back, and of course other times where we have been very profligate. We have used nine different partnerships, and with the exception of the Toure/Lescott partnership, no pairing has really had time to gel together and indicates the problems we have had with injury and unavailabilty this season. The records are as follows:
Toure/Dunne GP 2 GA 0 GAA 0.00
Toure/Lescott GP 14 GA 21 GAA 1.45
Richards/Lescott GP 1 GA 2 GAA 2.00
Kompany, Lescott GP 2 GA 1 GAA 0.50
Toure/Onouha GP 2 GA 6 GAA 3.00
Toure/Kompany GP 3 GA 0 GAA 0.00
Richards/Boyata GP 1 GA 0 GAA 0.00
Richards/Kompany GP 2 GA 1 GAA 0.50
Kompany/Boyata GP 3 GA 6 GAA 2.00
Apart from the brief pairing of Toure and Onouha, all of the partnerships have posted decent numbers although the Toure/Lescott partnership was coming in for criticism after we began shipping goals during the poor spell of draws, yet there were signs prior to Lescott's injury that they were beginning to impose themselves (note the victories over Arsenal and Chelsea).
With Vincent Kompany ruled out for a couple of weeks it means another shuffling of the pack, and Mancini could even spring a surprise if Lescott is deemed fit enough, although Dedryck Boyata will likely get the nod (and create our tenth pairing of the season).
Once all of the available players are back though we will have six legitimate centre-backs competing for just two positions. All the pairings we have used throughout the season do offer something, so do the stats from the season so far indicate who the best pairing will be? For me, Vincent Kompany has been excellent since stepping in and his fledgling partnership with Kolo Toure looked promising before Kompany's injury.
I'd suggest that pairing ultimately gets the nod, with a fit again Joleon Lescott pushing them hard.