To finish up the series on 2011/12 plus/minus statistics, let's take a look at specific partnerships and player combinations that were used last season.
NB: As before, short-handed game situations were ignored. The green/red (better/worse) cell shadings are with respect to the team's season averages of 1.80 goals-scored/90 and 1.06 goals-conceded/90.
While I did not specifically confirm this, I would not be surprised if John Terry had gotten paired with every single other center back at some point during last season. And when we ran out of center backs, we even paired him with right backs. So it should be not surprising to see ol' faithful at the top of the rankings:
We may start seeing the Cahill - David Luiz combination more and more as the clock ticks away on Terry, but they will have to improve on last season's defensive performance if they are to justify their selection.
Outside of the 'False 9', the buzziest buzzword (buzzphrase?) of recent times is the 'double pivot' - i.e. the central midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Just from these numbers, the Michael Essien - Frank Lampard pairing seems to be the best combination of offense and defense. However, the sample sizes get rather small for anything beyond the most used (and also very successful) John Mikel Obi - Lampard pairing.
The 4-3-3's answer to the 4-2-3-1's double pivot, these midfield pairs sit just ahead of a lone holder. Andre Villas-Boas often preferred Oriol Romeu to John Obi Mikel for that position (perhaps not without reason), but what is patently clear is that Ramires made the 4-3-3 tick.
I included the last two as a reminder that Florent Malouda had more than just a cameo in central midfield. May this serve as a sign of warning for all posterity.
The left flank is defined as the combination of the left back (i.e. Ashley Cole) and the left winger/forward, regardless of managers, formations (the left forward of a 4-3-3 was treated the same as the left winger of a 4-2-3-1), or strategies. While this introduces a perhaps not insignificant source of error (more so than any of the other pairings we've looked at), one thing is clear...
...Florent Malouda is NOT the answer.
Same idea as the left flank, except, you know...on the right.
The Jose Bosingwa - Daniel Sturridge combo that AVB rolled with for quite some time sure seems like a poor choice. Ivanovic's defensive solidity played much-much better with young Daniel. And while Di Matteo doesn't seem too keen to deploy a 4-3-3 or put Sturridge on the right wing, Ivanovic should be able to continue locking down the right flank.