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Following on from articles we wrote back in October in which we compared the strikers, then the goalkeepers and then the midfield pairings at the Premier League’s top six, we now take a look at the central defenders.

These partnerships are crucial to their team having a successful, (or otherwise), season and large amounts of money are now being spent on a position which was, in the past, second only to goalkeeper in unpopularity when children were organising a game of football.

The days of the permanently lone centre half are long gone but, in a back three, one of the pair of centre-backs can still take up this role and would do so if the opposition were playing with one up front, leaving the wing backs to go forward and having two “half-backs” for protection, much as it was all those years ago.

So today we take a look at Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, with the other three saved for tomorrow.

602

Arsenal

Laurent Koscielny & Per Mertesacker

Two giants, particularly Mertesacker, which can make them look awkward and, whilst Koscielny is quite adept with the ball at his feet, Mertesacker can be clumsy and generally earns his money by being good in the air.

Surprisingly though, for someone of his height, (he is 6’6”), he doesn’t actually score that many goals having only managed nine for Arsenal since his arrival in 2011.

Koscielny who, at 32, is a year younger than Mertesacker, has scored 22 goals since his arrival in 2010 and, at 6’1” is shorter than his defensive partner.

Age is now catching up with these two and stubborn old man is trying, (and, up to now, failing), to replace them. He has Granit Xhaka and Rob Holding challenging, unconvincingly, for their places in the team.

Partnership score – 7/10

630

Chelsea

Gary Cahill & Antonio Rüdiger

With the retirement of John Terry, Antonio Conte moved reasonably quickly to secure the signing of Antonio Rüdiger to replace him. At only 24 years of age he has time to mature and cement his place in the team and will surely learn from playing alongside Gary Cahill, assuming Conte continues to keep faith with him.

Cahill, at 31 is nearer the end than the beginning but has been a loyal servant since 2012. He has also chipped in with a few goals over his Chelsea career, scoring 25 in all.

This is another partnership which looks good but is prone to the occasional off-day, as both players have mistakes in them.

Partnership score – 7/10

676

Liverpool

Dejan Lovren & Joel Matip

Lovren was a rock when at Southampton and his defensive displays there were the reason he was signed by Liverpool. Since his move he has had some shaky performances which can only be put down to the “bigger club” syndrome. Undoubtedly a talented defender, the 28 year-old Croatian should be around at Anfield for a few years yet.

Joel Matip is still a relatively unknown quantity. At 6’5”, the German born Cameroon international certainly has everything in his favour and time will tell whether he can make the centre back spot his own. There has been a lot less talk of Virgil van Dijk lately but, in truth, he would be an upgrade on either of these two at present and Liverpool will surely try to sign him in January.

Partnership score – 6/10

So that’s the three centre back pairings for today. Obviously most clubs have choices with their defenders and we are not suggesting that these players will always be the first choice of their managers.

Let us know which pairings you prefer in the comments section and have a vote for the best central defender in our poll.

Tomorrow we will look at the two Manchester clubs and Tottenham Hotspur.

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