West Ham boss Alan Curbishley has hit out at the "outrageous" criticism of captain Nigel Reo-Coker.
Reo-Coker (left) was linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer
The midfielder, 22, did not play in the FA Cup win over Brighton but Curbishley rejected talk it was to avoid him being Cup-tied ahead of a possible move.
"I felt he needed a break," said the Hammers boss. "I felt the treatment he has been receiving has been outrageous.
"Every time I pick up a paper, it's his fault we're in the bottom three. I just want everyone to get off his back."
Reo-Coker, who was linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer, is again being linked with a move in the January transfer window.
Meanwhile, West Ham chairman Eggert Magnusson has urged the fans to back Reo-Coker and rest of the players.
"I hope that the fans will get behind the whole team, including the captain who could play a vital role going forward," he said.
Despite a fairly comfortable 3-0 win over League One Brighton, Curbishley was in angry mood in the post-match news conference.
Upset at recent press coverage of West Ham, he refused to answer any questions.
I am not blaming any of the players who have been brought in during the summer. I would not do that
West Ham boss Alan Curbishley
Instead, the Hammers boss expressed his disappointment at the way comments he made on Friday were interpreted by some of Saturday's newspapers as criticism of the previous regime's signings.
"I did say 'when you look at the players who have been brought in during the summer, not many of them have established themselves in the first team'," he said.
"That was the Argentine boys who have not really established themselves. John Pantsil and Tyrone Mears have not had a chance really, certainly not under me. Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Spector have been in and out.
"It has been spun around that I have been blaming all of the players who came in this summer for our problems and our troubles.
"I am so disappointed with the headlines. I am not blaming any of the players who have been brought in during the summer. I would not do that.
"What I did say was the players who came in during the summer have perhaps not gone straight into the side and established themselves, which is probably what the club needed and is what the club needs now.
"That is why I have been looking to bring experienced players in who can go into this sort of situation and deal with it.
"I would like you to print that - and that is the end of my press conference."