Over the last month or so, Everton have suffered at the hands of a very particular trend running through academy football.
That happens to be the Jadon Sancho effect; whereby a youth player sees regular first-team opportunities elsewhere and takes their chance by seeking a permanent move over a loan deal.
It has worked for many footballers over the last few years including a player that the Toffees were ultimately happy to get rid of – Thierry Small.
The left-back was arguably the hottest talent in the Everton youth set-up and is the youngest player to ever feature for the club at the age of 16 years and 167 days.
However, as pre-season resumed a few months ago, Small was nowhere to be seen. A new deal had been proposed by Everton and he was even given a first-team locker but he trained on his own at a separate location and didn’t even turn up to Finch Farm.
The youngster ripped up his contract and eventually headed to Southampton, another Premier League side renowned for their academy.
However, we could see a repeat scenario with Lewis Dobbin attracting widespread interest from elsewhere.
Before leaving Goodison Park behind, Small was wanted by the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United but ultimately settled on the south coast instead.
Dobbin, meanwhile, is now being courted by several Premier League and Bundesliga clubs according to reports.
Therefore, in order for Everton to avoid losing him, Rafa Benitez must demonstrate that there is a clear pathway towards senior football.
Dobbin featured for the first-team against Manchester United in pre-season but is yet to gather a taste of competitive action.
Little opportunities like those will keep Dobbin fresh and hungry to succeed, though, and judging by his record at youth level, he deserves more chances.
Furthermore, the 18-year-old was on fire for the academy during pre-season. Dobbin was so good that he scored a jaw-dropping three hat-tricks.
Of course, that kind of form doesn’t always translate to first-team football but the striker has a very good chance of thriving at Goodison Park for years to come.
Benitez now just has to hope he avoids another Small incident when January rolls around.