Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol hit out a club captain Johan Djourou after he criticised the team's tactics following the 5-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund, but admitted it will be a battle to stay in the Bundesliga.
Dortmund needed only 27 minutes to take a 3-0 lead at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion on Saturday as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a hat trick against the home side's new three-man defence.
Gisdol remains without a win in his five matches in charge of Hamburg, who are looking for a new sporting director.
The changed defensive system was criticised by Djourou after the game, with the former Arsenal defender telling reporters: "We had our difficulties -- it was new for many and we had no instinct."
But Gisdol hit back at the player, who was at fault for Dortmund's second goal when Emre Mor intercepted his back pass to keeper Rene Adler.
"Every professional should be able to play a three-man or a four-man defence. You learn that at every youth academy," the coach said.
"With all those mistakes we would have also run into problems with a four-man defence."
He said that on Sunday Djourou had clarified his position and admitted that playing Dortmund with a three-man defence was "the right choice."
But at his postmatch news conference Gisdol stressed that Hamburg faced a fight to avoid their first-ever relegation from the Bundesliga.
"Our reality is a struggle for survival. We need to be aware of that and stop dreaming," he added.
Meanwhile, Hamburg are continuing their search for a new sporting director.
On Friday, former defender Nico-Jan Hoogma said he was no longer interested in the job, but on Monday local media in the Ruhr region reported that Bochum would listen to offers for sporting director Christian Hochstatter.