Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has called on his British stars to take charge of the club’s future.
It remains to be seen how much longer Wenger will reign over the Emirates Stadium – the 67-year-old refuses to reveal if he will sign a new contract to stay beyond the end of the current season.
A minority of supporters have been calling for Wenger to go after a poor run of form saw the Gunners drop out of the Premier League title race and eliminated from the Champions League with a 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich.
That leaves only the FA Cup as potential silverware for Arsenal in what could yet prove to be Wenger’s swansong.
The Frenchman heads into his 11th semi-final as Arsenal boss when they meet Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday.
And ahead of the clash with Pep Guardiola’s side he has laid down the gauntlet to his much-heralded core of British talent.
The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere have all arguably yet to hit the heights their budding careers promised.
But, on the eve of the last-four meeting, Wenger insists they are still integral to Arsenal.
Asked if his collective of British players remained important, he replied: “Yes, of course.
“But what I love above a passport are players who integrate the values of the club. That is the most important. And they have to be ready to defend these values.
“It’s more natural for local players because they have been educated in Arsenal – players like Ramsey, Chamberlain. They have to take charge of the future of the club.
“They should lead and take responsibility to say “yes, that is how we want to behave, this is how we want to play, let’s go together.”
“If they didn’t want it, that would be a huge disappointment. A lot is said about my future but my future is more important in the value and spirit of what we have built in 20 years than my own person.
“These guys have to take charge of what we have built and the values of the club. We are a club that are admired for that.
“We have supporters all over the world because of that…the values that this club represents. It’s not only for the trophies that we win that is important. It’s also about the way you behave, the way you think.”
Ramsey in particular has endured a tough season.
The former Cardiff youngster enjoyed a superb summer as he helped Wales to the semi-finals of the European Championships but has been blighted by injuries ever since.
Ramsey has started just eight league games this season but Wenger is still backing him to come good.
“He is a Frank Lampard-type player,” he added.
“He is getting in the box and he has a huge capacity to run. Certainly physically he has a combination of stamina, power – and his capacity to repeat high intensity is certainly the best in the league.
“I think for Aaron it is a very frustrating season.
“He has it all in the locker to be defensive and offensive. So that is for me a vital part of the game we want to play. We do not only want to defend, we want to defend and attack. So these kind of players are very important.”
With Wilshere on loan at Bournemouth, where he suffered a broken leg last weekend, and Walcott and Gibbs on the bench for Monday’s win at Middlesbrough it remains to be seen how much of an influence Wenger’s homegrown core will have in the semi-final.