And for the majority of this season, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano played every single minute. Carles Puyol was injured. Marc Bartra was on the bench - and sometimes not even that. His lone appearance was the last 10 minutes of a 4-0 win over Ajax, and even then only after Pique had taken a knock.
Then, the inevitable happened. Mascherano picked up an injury. It was now or never, yet again, for Bartra.
The young Catalan defender played 55 minutes against Real Sociedad, replacing Mascherano. It was the Bartra everyone had hoped for. Efficient (he completed all his passes) yet brave (he scored a goal). And it's been like that since.
In a tight game against Almeria - his first start this season - Bartra was at it again. Confident on the ball, yet strong without it. He wasn't shy about rushing forward to help the attack, but he was smart enough to pick his spots. He won the man of the match voting on this site. Barcelona walked away with a 2-0 win.
In the Champions League, Bartra got his second start, away to Celtic. His continued good form helped Barca to another close win, 1-0. The Barcelona paper SPORT wrote that Bartra "graduated" in Celtic Park. Yesterday, they ran a poll asking if Barcelona needed a new centerback in the winter transfer window. Sixty-six percent said no.
One of those votes could have come from Josep Bartra. "Barcelona don't need to sign a central defender," he said. He may be biased; he is Marc's father.
But it's a point of view of a lot of optimism that some fans are warming up to.
But is it wise?
Carles Puyol is coming back, but his aging body may not hold up to the wear of the season. Gerard Pique's form has been called into question frequently this term. And Mascherano, currently injured, still lacks height and pace, though he has been performing at a great level.
In conversations with fans, it seems a lot of people have become "optimistically resigned." They don't like that the team is not signing a reinforcement, but they can live with it now that Bartra seems poised to take off.
After the Real Sociedad game, Bartra was asked if Barcelona needed another signing.
"No. If I don't say so, who would?"
Well, 892 people said no in that poll as well, Marc.