‘What is your ideal centre back pairing as we have seen Balbuena / Diop, Ogbonna / Diop & Balbuena / Ogbonna?’

A question I recently posed on A Cup of Tea with Geo and Gonzo.

Both men were quite quick of the mark in naming Balbuena & Diop as their favoured choice. This got me thinking and I had a quick look back at the stats from the season from all of our centre back pairings.




We started our season with a centre back pairing of Balbuena & Ogbonna. Losing our first two games to Liverpool & Bournemouth. This centre back pairing would only be together for a further 3 games later in the season losing two and drawing one. In total the Balbuena & Ogbonna partnership played a total of 5 games together, drawing 1, losing 4, conceding 12 and keeping no clean sheets!

It’s hard to understand why this partnership didnt work out, both are experienced players and internationals. I suppose the games they were paired up included Liverpool, Chelsea & Man U – all top six sides. However only picking up one point and conceding on average 2.4 goals per game is poor no matter who the opposition.

  P W D L F A GD CS Pts Pts per Game
Ogbonna / Balbuena 5 0 1 4 5 12 -7 0 1 0.2



It wasn’t long before both our summer signings were paired together, the third game in to be precise. A pairing which would continue in the league until Balbuena picked up an injury in the Watford game just before Christmas. An injury which would rule him out of first team action until April.

In total Balbuena & Diop would be paired together for 18 games, winning 9, drawing 3, losing 6, conceding 21 with 5 clean sheets recorded. An average of 1.66pts per game under their command in defence would total 63pts for a season, generally leaving us in 7th place based on last seasons points tallies.

  P W D L F A GD CS Pts Pts per Game
Diop / Balbuena 18 9 3 6 29 21 8 5 30 1.66


The Diop & Ogbonna pairing was used throughout our Cup campaigns.

  P W D L F A GD CS Pts Pts per Game
Diop / Ogbonna 5 3 0 2 16 8 8 2 N/A N/A


Obviously, it was also the pairing used during the league when Balbuena was injured. In total in the league they partnered up 15 times, winning 6, drawing 3, losing 9 conceding 22 and only keeping 2 clean sheets. They averaged 1.4pts per league game meaning 53pts for a season, about equal to our final standing.

  P W D L F A GD CS Pts Pts per Game
Diop / Ogbonna 15 6 3 6 19 22 -3 2 21 1.4


In total this pairing played together 20 times, winning 9, drawing 3, losing 8, conceding 30 and helping to keep 4 clean sheets. 1 clean sheet in every 5 games.

  P W D L F A GD CS Pts Pts per Game
Diop / Ogbonna 20 9 3 8 37 30 7 4 30 1.5



So, looking back, it would seem that Geo & Gonzo called it correctly. Our best centre back pairing would be in the form of Balbuena & Diop. Especially if you look at our last three games of the season (3 wins out of 3, 2 clean sheets) when they finally returned to the team together. Perhaps those last 3 results were due to them having almost had a full season in the Premiership, that they had got to terms and had a better understanding of the pace and physicality of playing in this league.

Regardless of all the above though, with a full summer in the transfer market to look forward to, our defence needs amendments. The facts don’t lie. We had the worst ‘goals against’ and worst ‘goal difference’ in the top ten. Our goalkeeper topped the table of the ‘most saves’ in the season. But do we need to enhance our centre back options? Or do we need an upgrade on our full backs? Or both?

One thing is for certain, we cannot have the same record defensively next season if we are to push on and try to get into those European placings!


Tony Close



By Gonzo

West Ham fan for as long as I can remember. I was flukey enough to watch The Irons beat Bury 10-0 in my first ever game . . . True to form, West Ham then went out and signed their central defender 😬

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