Real Madrid star Toni Kroos has hinted at his frustrations with the tactics employed by new manager Julen Lopetegui, suggesting he should not be as defensively inclined as deeper-lying team-mate Casemiro.
Lopetegui's Real have endured a difficult start to the season, and while Kroos has backed his side to bounce back from recent adversity, his comments while on international duty suggest he's not happy with his placement.
The Germany playmaker said: "It's a challenge to reverse this situation. We've shown we can do it. We've always had phases like these. It doesn't worry me. I like playing deeper, but I'm not Casemiro."
Casemiro, while no creative slouch himself, is largely regarded as the shielding force in Real's midfield, flanked by Kroos and Luka Modric on either side, who are tasked with the more acute orchestrating in attack.
The same midfield three has run Real's show for most of this season, but not with the same efficacy as in the triumphant campaigns of recent history.
Kroos seemingly refuses to accept Real's place on the downward slope, however, and posted a message of defiance on Twitter:
Toni Kroos @ToniKroos
Two weeks of disappointing results, games and also bad luck. We deserved more points because we didn‘t play that bad -but it is what it is. Don’t forget we also had these moments in the past three years... Will be a great challenge to stand up again! Hala Madrid! https://t.co/KtkpmfKv2M
Real are only two points off La Liga's summit but sit fourth after eight matches and are without a win in their past three outings.
Los Blancos also suffered a shock defeat to CSKA Moscow in their UEFA Champions League group last time out. Joe Krishnan of the Evening Standard said this is the worst start after 10 games of any Real manager president Florentino Perez has appointed.
Real's recent streak of poor form has quickly changed perceptions, as it was only three weeks ago that Marca were lauding the ongoing fine work of Real's ranks, and the midfield in particular, per the Spanish Football Podcast:
If results didn't already reflect there was some sense of disharmony under Lopetegui, Kroos' remarks effectively confirm as much, at least in regards to his individual place in the team.
The 28-year-old arrived from Bayern Munich in July 2014 and has enjoyed huge success at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, seldom (if ever) complaining of his role in the team.
Real are short on luck at present, and Kroos clearly wants to help as best he can, but perhaps there are limitations being put on his play preventing him from doing as he pleases.