The 28-year-old was one of the stars of the 2018/19 campaign for the east London outfit, forming a solid partnership with Issa Diop at the heart of the defence.
However, Pellegrini now feels that that double act lacks balance because they are both right footers, opting for the left-footed Angelo Ogbonna alongside Diop for the majority of games this season.
This is an interesting idea from Pellegrini, but one that has been borne out in the performances of Diop and Ogbonna so far this term. The two men have looked extremely solid when playing together this season, something which was not always the case last time out. Contrastingly, Diop and Balbuena looked very stout when they were paired together in the last campaign, but produced a woeful display in the opening game of this season against Manchester City. Balbuena may feel that his continued exile from the starting line-up is slightly harsh given how he performed last season. However, the proof is in the pudding at the moment. A right footer alongside a left footer does naturally give a defence more balance – that’s undeniable. That doesn’t mean that you should go with an inferior player simply because he is left-footed, but Ogbonna is playing very well this term and so there’s no reason for Pellegrini to change his approach at the moment.