Arsenal winger Sanchez Watt is currently ensconced in one of the more precarious stages of his career.
At 21, he is still young enough to harbor realistic hopes of cracking the first team.
And had he already enjoyed the playing time seen by a number of his age group—Francis Coquelin, who was one of the revelations of last season, immediately springs to mind—he might have good reason to enter the upcoming campaign with hope.
But that has not been the case. So, like so many talented youngsters who failed to make enough of an impression and filtered away in search of more consistent first-team football, Watt seems to be approaching a fork in the road of his career.
He has impressed on several of his loan stints, and Arsenal's official website glossed that he "couldn't stop scoring" for the reserves at the start of last season, but it is perhaps most telling that since joining the Gunners in July 2007, Watt has made just three appearances for the first team.
All of those games came in the 2009-10 Carling Cup (renamed the Capital One Cup for the 2012-13 campaign).
And while Watt notched a goal in those three appearances, it evidently was not enough to force himself into the reckoning for more consistent action.
While Jay-Emmanuel Thomas and Craig Eastmond enjoyed first-team appearances in the second half of that season, Watt joined Leeds United on loan.
Is Time Running Out?
What is perhaps most disheartening from Watt's perspective is Wenger's history for showing no reticence over playing youngsters during his 16-year career at the Arsenal helm.
In the past two seasons the Frenchman has penciled in the likes of teenagers Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into his team sheet. Both rewarded his faith with superb campaigns.
It is little wonder that Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain both rode the strengths of their respective Arsenal performances into being included in the England senior national team set up.
For Wilshere, that chance came in the spring of 2011; Oxlade-Chamberlain's own upward arc followed one year later.
Watt is a terrific talent; although he struggled to get games last season at Crawley Town—one of his two loan stints a season ago (Sheffield Wednesday was the other), and he has credited his moves away from Arsenal with instilling reserves of independence in him.
He's produced during his loan stints, perhaps most impressively compiling five assists during two successive trials with Leeds from 2010 to 2011.
All the same, he has not been able to compound those efforts with forwarding his Arsenal career, and he had to have been dismayed to miss out on this summer's preseason tours of Asia and Germany.
He has instead featured for the reserves, playing up front in the 3-1 win over Boreham Wood in late July.
With a number of talented players, even younger than he, now knocking at the door of first-team football, combined with the summer's high-profile additions of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, Watt may just feel that his window of opportunity has passed him by.
One forward, 19-year-old Benik Afobe—who was included on the Asia Tour—has already been sent to Bolton on a season-long loan.
But one feels that that decision was fueled by a hope that Afobe will come back to Arsenal ahead of the 2013-14 season steeped in the experience afforded to him by a season's worth of consistent football.
That move is steeped in hope for the future. If Watt is sent out on loan again this season, it will be with a far less hopeful feeling in tow.