In December 2012, Arsene Wenger thought he had cracked it. That he had found his answer to Fergie’s Class of 92. Or the Arsenal of the late 80s / 90s. The Frenchman thought he had found and developed the future of Arsenal, the future of England.
They were known as ‘the British core’.
Five young British players. All signing long-term deals on the same day. Standing behind them a smiling Arsene Wenger. The quintent of talent he hoped would define the club’s future.
The future looked bright.
Five years and three FA Cups later the investment has not been the unilateral success Wenger had banked on.
So what has happened to Arsenal’s British core?
Two FA Cup final winning goals will forever give Aaron Ramsey his place in Arsenal history.
The Welshman is the only one of the five who can even be determined a relative success. But into his 10th season at the club, Ramsey has not delivered on his youthful promise on a consistent basis.
The sickening broken leg injury suffered at Stoke in 2010 delayed his progress. After joining as a pacey teenage winger from Cardiff, Ramsey developed into more of a central attacking midfielder.
In 2013-14 he was named the club’s Player of the Year. A return of 16 goals in 34 appearances hinted at a breakthrough year, and the unlocking of his vast potential.
It is fair to say, though, that in club colours he has not kicked on, despite being a key performer for an overachieving Wales side at Euro 2016.
Constant injury setbacks have disrupted his progress, so too the lack of a defined role at club level. With Wales he is the link between midfield and attack, at Arsenal he is just another given licence to roam with little responsibility.
Sitting front and centre of the picture, there is no mistake that Jack Wilshere was the central pivot of the British core.
The great hope of both club and country, the young midfielder was fighting fit once again after an injury-ravaged 2011-12 season.
But ever since that first major injury, Wilshere has not been the same player who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Xavi and Andres Iniesta at the Nou Camp in the Champions League.
Injury has defined him. His loan spell at Bournemouth last year was only the second time in his career he had featured in more than 25 Premier League games.
In the three seasons prior to his temporary move to the Vitality Stadium, he had made just 19 league appearances.
The 25-year-old does not currently fit into Wenger’s first-team plans, and was recently sent off in an appearance for the Under 23s.
An England recall still seems a distant prospect, so too the possibility of a new contract to extend his stay with the Gunners beyond the end of this season.
The loss of Gael Clichy to Manchester City in 2011 was viewed as little more than a minor setback by Wenger.
In Kieran Gibbs the Arsenal boss felt he had a ready-made replacement to become the new first-choice.
His initial judgement proved astute. Gibbs provided the energy and pace demanded by the position.
Injuries — a constant theme here — prevented Gibbs from nailing down the spot. The signing of Nacho Monreal in January 2013 eventually relegated the England international to second-choice.
The 27-year-old has been little more than a bit-part player in recent seasons and could leave before the end of the window this week.
The capture of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the summer of 2011 was seen a huge coup for Arsenal.
Wenger lavished £12m on an 18-year-old with enormous potential, a more muscular proposition than the last teenager they had acquired from Southampton — Theo Walcott.
The early promise of his debut season earned him an England call-up at Euro 2012 and hinted at a bright future. He was direct and dynamic with the ball, with searing pace to boot.
But, as ever, injuries have prevented Oxlade-Chamberlain from delivering on that potential thus far.
A return of only nine goals in 132 Premier League appearances is way down on expectations, but at 24 he is still well primed to develop further.
That he sees that next step up as away from Arsenal is damning for Wenger and his inability to extract the potential of his British core.
Plucked from the Charlton academy in the summer of 2011, many scratched their head when he signed. But he was young, English and Arsenal.
After just 62 largely fairly average appearances for the first-team, Jenkinson has just embarked on his third loan spell away from the club.
He did impress a few years ago when on loan at West Ham, which encouraged the Hammers to make a £10m, which ultimately fell through.
The 25-year-old’s career has nose-dived since the early promise and looks set to leave with little fanfare with the club struggling to find a buyer.