"I don't know," was Lee Johnson's response to whether he and Hibs' hierarchy were singing from the same hymn sheet on what needs to change on Leith.

It's a three-word answer you could arguably apply to pretty much anything you like when it comes to matters at Easter Road at the moment.

Where do they go from here? 'I don't know'.

How do they sort out such a bloated squad? 'I don't know'.

Are they going to stick with Johnson? 'I don't know'.

Something needs to change, and quickly. Hibs have picked up just three points from the last 18 available, dropping down to eighth in the Premiership, and were soundly beaten by Hearts on Monday. OK, they're only three adrift of fourth, but their trajectory feels decidedly downwards.

And, everywhere you look, there's growing unrest. Johnson seems wholly fed up with his team and has even started taking pops at the board, while you sense an alarming number of fans have had enough of just about everyone involved. A manager aiming his ire upwards rarely ends well, albeit Johnson did caveat frank criticism of Ryan Porteous' contract situation with some general praise of owner Ron Gordon, head of recruitment Ian Gordon, chief-executive Ben Kensell and their dedication to the cause.

Still, though, it was unusual to see a manager so openly criticise their club’s powerbrokers. With results so poor, he’s not exactly coming at them from a position of strength, never mind leaving himself open to accusations of deflection.

And quite how Johnson expects to inspire a positive response from his ailing squad by declaring himself "sick of mediocrity" is anyone's guess. It's not the first time, either, that he's let rip on the players and, again, it's tactic that rarely pays off for managers. It's long since become clear Johnson is a man who says what he pleases, which is great when you have newspapers to fill and headlines to write, but fans take a totally different view when the product on the pitch isn't matching the soundbites. And, for some time now, it certainly hasn't.

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Hibs went on a run of four straight league victories between September and October, but have only won two of 11 since. Before the World Cup break, several underlying statistics suggested there was potential for things to come together in time, but their miserable form has mostly continued since the restart.

Granted, three of those four matches were against the Premiership's top three in Celtic, Rangers and Hearts, but a comprehensive 3-0 Edinburgh derby defeat cannot be spun any other way than as piling pressure on the manager. Johnson has his sights set firmly on the January transfer window with as much, if not more, emphasis on moving players on as bringing them in - understandable when you have 31 players in your first-team setup.

But with results falling off a cliff, backing Johnson substantially over the next month comes with considerable risk for the board, who have hired three managers and fired two of them across the past year. If the current incumbent's position becomes untenable, the next man could find himself with a glut of players he doesn't fancy and the current situation just repeats itself.

However, the way Hibs have operated in the last 12 months feels unsustainable - you simply can't go on dispensing with managers every few months. Not only is it a poor reflection of how the club is being run, it makes the job increasingly less appealing to potential bosses.

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You could argue coaches will always back themselves to succeed where others have not, but that could easily be outweighed by some self-preservation instinct if they feel they're on a hiding to nothing. So, unless they want to sack themselves, the Hibs board will need to support Johnson.

That means giving him what he wants/needs in terms of transfers. The former Sunderland manager has been vocal about the need for more quality, but there’s also the rather glaring point that a fair few of those not up to scratch were signed on his watch.

Harry McKirdy doesn’t look the right fit, Jair Tavares hasn’t made an impact, neither has Will Fish, and Johnson himself has confirmed Momodou Bojang’s loan is set to be cut short. Getting David Marshall and Martin Boyle was good business, but while Rocky Bushiri has risen to prominence, he’s only at Easter Road because the club signed him accidentally.

It’s a decidedly mixed hit rate on the transfer front, and Johnson has resorted to using many of the players signed by either Jack Ross or Shaun Maloney, so it’s not exactly clear who he wants to get rid of over the next few weeks. What is clear, however, is the acquisitions he does make need to hit the ground running. Hibs can’t afford to slip much further down the table and there’s no guarantees the gap to the top six will remain a bridgeable one for long.

But it feels like a tall order. Johnson’s side aren’t just lacking in one area, they’re conceding too many, scoring too few, and nobody has been more scathing of their attacking output than their manager, which tells its own story. Pull all this together – frustrated boss, players lacking form and confidence, fans nearing revolt, ropey transfer market record – and the odds of a rosy outlook come February at Easter Road feel rather long.