Schalke midfielder Marco Hoger has defended coach Roberto Di Matteo against criticism amid another crisis in the making at the Royal Blues.
Former Chelsea boss Di Matteo has already come under fire from parts of the German media only six games into his tenure at Schalke.
Having signed a three-year-contract in early October, he first recorded two home wins before managing only one victory and three defeats in the four games that followed, while star Julian Draxler has been ruled out until 2015 with a thigh injury.
Schalke have dropped to 11th in the Bundesliga standings, and are also in danger of missing the knockout stages in Champions League as they go into their fifth group game against Chelsea at the end of November with a one-point advantage over Sporting Lisbon.
Throughout the week, the German media has debated the state of the Schalke squad: the central question is whether sacked coach Jens Keller failed to work on the fitness of the players, or whether Di Matteo or the club board should be blamed.
The debate was kicked off by Schalke captain Benedikt Howedes, who suggested a lack of fitness was the reason behind the team's poor form.
Former Germany international Dennis Aogo said this was not the case, and Kevin-Prince Boateng stated that all the blame lies with the players, telling Sport Bild: "No more alibis."
Bild ran coverage on Di Matteo's training sessions with the "Schalke wimps" and published a picture on Twitter of the players running up the stairs at their old Parkstadion ground, comparing him to Felix Magath, who has a fearsome reputation for fitness training.
- BILD FC Schalke 04 (@BILD_Schalke04) November 12, 2014
However, stats published by local magazine Reviersport suggest that Schalke do not have a fitness problem -- they cover more kilometres than their domestic Champions League rivals Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen -- but rather they are not making the right runs.
This has once again led to unrest at the club, which had been hoping to restore order by appointing Di Matteo.
"We need to work to regain confidence, especially in attack. It has always been our strength, but not in the past few weeks," midfielder Marco Hoger told kicker.
Hoger appeared to hit out at the new coach -- who has been criticised for his defensive approach -- but aware of this, the 25-year-old told reporters: "We want to work with the coach, and trust him... even though you don't like to do that."
Meanwhile, Bild reported on Friday that Schalke hope to offload five fringe players in the upcoming transfer window. According to the paper, Christian Fuchs, Chinedu Obasi, Tranquillo Barnetta, Felipe Santana and Christian Clemens can leave the Veltins Arena as the Royal Blues hope to reduce their wage bill.