Brendan Rodgers has backed Mikel Arteta in his stand-off with Mesut Ozil.
The Leicester manager is standing squarely behind his fellow boss at the Emirates as the row rumbles on about the former Germany star.
Ozil was omitted from Arsenal ’s Premier League squad and took to social media last week to sound off about his unhappiness, saying, “Loyalty is hard to come by these days’.”
Asked whether there was a sadness that the 32-year-old was not featuring, the Foxes boss said: “Not really, I’d be very much like Mikel.
“Ozil’s a talented player, but it depends on your structure.
“We need every player to contribute to the defensive aspect of the game as well as the attacking aspect.
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“The team have to operate with one brain. They have to function and work together.
“There will be teams where there is more freedom, but less structure.
“Ozil’s a wonderful talent and very creative, absolutely. He can make the last pass, but it’s about the team. It’s about marrying the individual qualities of the player into the team and if you feel that player can’t press the game or doesn’t want to press the game, it has an effect on your attacking structure and your defensive structure.
“If one person doesn’t do their job, then you can suffer.
“He’s a talent, but, as always with talent, you have to be a working talent.”
Rodgers speaks quietly, but there is a steel underneath.
He famously chewed out Raheem Sterling when he was boss at Liverpool in front of a crew filming a documentary.
And, after lifting Leicester into the Champions League placings last term and with a string of successes behind him at Celtic, Rodgers has clear views.
He added: “I always say to my attacking players, ‘Don’t run forward if you can’t run back’.
“You have to be able to do the dirty work. This is the highest level of the game and, at that level, you have to be able to do both sides. You think of any top team in the world and you think of some of the attacking players.
“If you look at Bayern Munich, the current European champions, and you look at Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller, for instance, the guys that play down the sides. Look at how hard they work.
“Look at Liverpool with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane – the work he puts in. That’s what you have got to do.
“You can’t carry anyone.
“It’s OK having talent, but, at the highest level, you have to be working talents if you are going to play in the big games for the big teams.”
Rodgers is sweating on the fitness of Jamie Vardy, left out again from the Foxes side that beat Zorya Luhansk 3-0 in the Europa League in midweek with a calf strain.
The Ulsterman has already experienced Arteta’s Arsenal – the teams drew 1-1 at the Emirates three months ago – and he knows what to expect.
Rodgers added: “What Mikel has recognised is the physicality in the Premier League. It’s getting quicker and stronger each year.
“He’s invested well, brought in good players and given them a good structure. They have a good base from which to play their game.
“They are very clear in their roles and how they play. He’s given them good organisation, a good start point.
“Fundamentally, in order to attack well, you need to defend well – and that’s key.
“They are clear on when to press or when to sit in their defensive block.
“Then they have that quality. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they have a world-class striker and there are others, too.”
Was Mikel Arteta right to leave Mesut Ozil out of his squad? Have your say here.
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