This blog has discussed Birmingham’s forward line: how Alec McLeish needs to settle on a partnership and let them get to know one another. Centre backs are a different bread altogether and picking the two best players will not guarantee good or consistent performances.
Central defenders take their position from each other and in every successful partnership there is a leader. When the team has the ball the leader at the back controls the position of the second centre back and, in turn, the full backs and central midfield.
Without the ball the leading centre back directs the defending; when to step up, who will cover who etc. The most important aspect of a central defensive partnership is that there is one leader. There needs to be an authoritative voice and someone to take responsibility for the teams defending.
Currently Terry leads Chelsea, Carragher leads Liverpool, Ferdinand leads Man Utd and Gallas leads Arsenal. When Ferdinand was injured Vidic lead Evens and the defence was just as strong. However, after the torrid time Torres gave Vidic the partnership crumbled because Vidic lost his authoritative voice.
A central defensive partnership, if wanting to be successful, needs to have one ‘aggressive’ player and one ‘passive’ player. Having the same type in a line up will lead to frailty; either someone not taking the direction given by another or neither proving the aforementioned direction.
Kolo Toure has a previous history when taking a role within the partnership. From his Arsenal days he appears to fluctuate between ‘passive’ and ‘aggressive’. He was ‘passive’ during his time with Sol Campbell (‘aggressive’ / successful) and with Pascal Cycan and Senderos (‘passive’ / failure) but ‘aggressive’ with Gallas (‘aggressive’ / failure).
In the 2008 / 2009 season Joleon Lescott played alongside Phil Jagielka at Everton. Jagielka was new(ish) to the position so took his lead from Lescott. It is arguable as to who performed better but certainly Lescott was the organiser at the back.
At Man City the partnership, being new, with have no leader in terms of who is the most senior at the club. Both players have experience in the Premier League and are capped at international level. Toure is older than Lescott, has played more and won more but Lescott is English and more expensive by double the amount.
Whether nationality will play a part as to who dominates will be interesting as the rest of the first choice back four are English (Richards and Bridge). Either way, one of Lescott or Toure will need to take direction from the other. It is easy in most cases to ascertain which one of the two centre backs that will be but in this case there is not a natural leader. Two ‘passives’ or two ‘aggressives’ do not work together and it will result in Shay Given being a busy man.