Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers last night dismissed reports from England that he may be about to leave the Premiership champions in order to take over from under-fire Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
The 68-year-old Wenger is the longest-serving manager in Premier League history, having replaced Bruce Rioch in 1996. However, he has gone 14 years without winning the title and 20 consecutive seasons of Champions League football came to an end last year. Thursday’s 3-0 home defeat by Manchester City – a repeat of the scoreline inflicted by the same opponents in the Carabao Cup final five days earlier – has left the Gunners ten points behind north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who currently occupy the last of the automatic Champions League slots.
Arsenal must now win the Europa League to gain entry to Europe’s premier competition and they have been drawn against AC Milan in the last 16.
It has been suggested that Rodgers, who previously managed in England’s top tier with Swansea City and Liverpool, is on a shortlist of names being considered by the hierarchy at the Emirates to replace the Frenchman but the Celtic manager stressed he is content to remain in Glasgow.
“Arsenal is a great club with a great manager,” said Rodgers, pictured. “People will look at it and see that I went to Liverpool, they were struggling for five seasons for Champions League football and I was able to get them back.
“When I came to Celtic, they hadn’t been in the Champions League for three seasons and I got them back. So maybe people are thinking – okay, Arsenal have been out of the Champions League and that is maybe the equation for someone like myself.
“However, I’m loving my life up here. I’m not going to be here forever but I’m living in a dream, although dreams always come to an end at some point, that’s for sure. I’m always relaxed about speculation and whatnot but my focus is only on Celtic.
“It’s a fantastic club Arsenal, but they have a great manager. Unfortunately, the criticism Arsene takes is now the way in the modern game, modern football. That’s unfortunate because he has done so much for the British game.
“He came in 20 odd years ago and revolutionised the game. And it’s sometimes disappointing and sad for another manager to see someone of that quality and who is held in such esteem have to go through that.
“I love my professional life here, the challenges of managing, the expectations, the scrutiny that comes with Celtic. Like I say, I’m living the dream. As for the other stuff, you can’t control it so I don’t worry about it. It will always be the case at big clubs, especially if your results turn the other way.
“What you have to be prepared for when you manage the big clubs is that there will be times when between five and ten other people will be linked with your job; that doesn’t happen in too many other industries.
“We live a privileged life, we get to manage and work with great players and great people but at the big clubs there is big scrutiny and, probably, when my results drop off here a bit I’m sure there will be names linked; you have to accept that as part of the job.
“Arsene will know that, he’s got great experience and he’s a really good man. He’s done wonders for British football and it’s just unfortunate at this period – and for a little while now – the focus has really been on him.”
Rodgers will concentrate on seeing off the challenge from Championship side Morton when the teams meet in the Scottish Cup quarter-final at Parkhead at lunchtime today.
“You can’t take anyone lightly but this is the part of the season I really enjoy now,” he said. “We work hard to get to this position – the business end of the season and now we can really focus in with that little bit more time to prepare as well. Now you see the real hunger in the team. Our first job now is to get to the semi-final; if we do that we are back to Hampden, which we like, but we expect a tough game.”
New signing Marvin Compper and Patrick Roberts are in the squad for today’s tie.