With figures courtesy of the vast resource that is mcfcstats.co.uk, I've taken a look at the various defensive partnerships that have featured for us over the season so far, covering both league and the various cup games we have played. It does make for some interesting reading and certainly throws up some trends and useful pointers.
I've broken it down to show games played (and further to won, drawn and lost) but also, and perhaps more importantly for a defensive partnership, the goals against average (GAA):
- Dunne/Richards : P14 W6 D2 L6 GA17 GAA 1.21
- Dunne/Onouha : P11 W5 D3 L3 GA 11 GAA 1.00
- Ben-Haim/Dunne : P8 W2 D3 L3 GA 9 GAA 1.13
- Ben-Haim/Richards : P7 W3 D0 L4 GA 13 GAA 1.86
- Onouha/Kompany : P4 W2D0 L2 GA4 GAA 1.00
- Kompany/Dunne : P2 W1 D0 L1 GA 1 GAA 0.5
It is interesting given the criticism that the Dunne/Richards partnership received earlier in the season that I expected their stats to be far higher, but of those partnerships that have featured significantly, it is unsurprising that the current Dunne/Onouha pairing has been the most succesful both in terms of results but also the number of goals conceded (now at a round goal per game following the 1-0 victory over Sunderland earlier today).
How much of that is down to the arrival of Shay Given is open to debate (and I'll have more on this shortly), but undoubtedly his greater experience at the very least has meant the goalkeeping position has been a far more settled on of late.
What I think is the key component in the Dunne/Onouha axis though is that in Nedum Onouha, we have a 'footballing defender' (something I've always felt he is more so than Richards is) alongside the more 'basic' elements of Richard Dunne. Although slightly skewed by the start of last seasons performances, in the end was the Dunne/Richards pairing undone by the fact that they are just too similar?
Now, and arguably for the first time since Sylvan Distin left for Portsmouth, we have a settled pairing that do complement each other. How fantastic is it to also see Nedum Onouha finally put a sustained run of fitness and form together to begin to show just exactly the type of player that most of us have thought since he first emerged.
With the stats to back their pairing up, I would think it is safe to assume that amidst a season of change in the position, Richard Dunne and Nedum Onouha look as though they are set to provide a long term answer.