Rosell fails to deliver the centre-back Barcelona desperately need

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Carles Puyol recently signed a new Barca contract until June 2016PA PhotosCover has not been found -- or will be found -- for Carles Puyol this summer.

After a whole summer of ongoing speculation, it turns out that the Barcelona directors have officially announced their decision to stop their search for the centre-back that the team so desperately needs. Apparently, newly appointed coach Gerardo Martino has convinced the board of his total confidence in the current squad.

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President Sandro Rosell promised the signing of a specialist centre-half back before the 31st of August when addressing the Blaugrana Supporters World Congress only four weeks ago. Former manager Tito Vilanova, sitting next to sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, also explained that signing a dominant defender was a non-negotiable necessity.

I fully understand the importance of listening to El Tata's opinions in regards to players but, considering his minimal knowledge of the needs of squad before his arrival, both Zubizarreta and Rosell should have used their authority and previous analysis of the needs of the team in order to ensure common sense prevailed and the world-class centre-back was signed.

Personally, I feel both shocked and frustrated. If the president, sporting director and previous coaches all agreed on the need for reinforcing a specific position, then they should have worked efficiently to ensure it happened. If they managed to confirm the transfer of Neymar in May, the signing of the experienced defender should have been confirmed shortly after. If that hadn't been possible for whatever reason, then the president should have made it the club's one and only priority from that moment on.

Barcelona have struggled to field a reliable defensive line for over two whole seasons now, ever since Carles Puyol started suffering constant injuries and Eric Abidal was forced to stay away from football for life-threatening treatment. From that point on, Barcelona have alarmingly lost defensive consistency.

When analysing the current squad, one can easily see that there are only three specialist centre-halves: Gerard Pique, Puyol and Marc Bartra. The Blaugrana captain is recovering from a seemingly endless knee problem and once that's happened, he will still need to reach optimum fitness before he's available for selection. Bartra hasn't been trusted to play at all this season. Pique has, in a clear contrast, played every a single minute in every single match so far and, as a result, may already be burnt-out once the decisive games of the season come.

Many have argued that Javier Mascherano, Alex Song, Adriano or even Sergio Busquets can all perform to a decent standard as central defenders. With respect and perhaps the exception of the courageous Argentinean, experience has already proven that such experiments should only be used in exceptional circumstances, not on a regular basis. The Catalans have been using players out of position for far too long.

Martino has consistently trusted Pique-Mascherano for the two starting spots so far. Would Barcelona be able to compete at the highest European level if one of them was unavailable for a long period of time? Would Bartra be ready to perform at the required standard despite having virtually no experience at professional level? Can Puyol come back to his best at 35 years of age and having only appeared in 22 matches in the last 12 months? Would any Cule trust Adriano or Song contain world-class strikers such as Robin Van Persie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Radamel Falcao?

Hand in heart, my answer to all of the above is clear: No.

Unfortunately, the struggle to field a reliable back-line on a regular basis is likely to repeat itself this season thanks to the board's inability to stay true to their word, impose common sense and invest to reinforce the weakest spot in the starting lineup.

Every single football fan on the planet now knows that Barcelona are going to struggle defensively once again this season. Teams who decide to keep eleven men behind the ball, tackle aggressively throughout the 90 minutes, cross high balls into the area from set-pieces and place at least one speedy striker upfront have an extremely good chance of winning.

Before the transfer window opened, I asked Rosell to deliver what the squad needed. While the arrival of Neymar is beginning to have an impact in the improvement of the team's attack, the back-line remains a huge question mark that rivals will most definitely take advantage of in the near future.

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