Wayne Rooney "struggles" against the top sides, according to his Everton manager Sam Allardyce.
England's record goalscorer has been deployed in midfield in recent weeks by Allardyce, and was replaced inside an hour on Saturday as the Toffees ground out a turgid 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool.
Rooney was far from happy with the substitution, clearly venting his frustration as he sat down on the bench, prompting Allardyce to respond in a post-match interview that no player was too big to be taken off.
Allardyce is battling with a paucity of options in central midfield, and concedes that Rooney is likely to come off second-best in games against the better teams.
"I can agree with you, to a certain degree, that Wayne struggles against the very best opposition," Allardyce said.
"He didn't play very well in the first half against Manchester City but, before that, he had been outstanding and we had been a little bit short in midfield in recent weeks anyway.
"We're still playing Tom Davies at 19 and bringing on Beni Baningime at 19 years old and we are without Gylfi Sigurdsson, who can play there.
"Davy Klaassen is still an anomaly to me. Will he or won't he? If I had the opportunity to play him I would, but I haven't because I've got to win.
Allardyce: "If we lose it's me who gets the stick"
"So, I don't have the luxury of saying, 'Go on, give it a go lad,' because if we lose, it's me who gets the stick."
Everton face a trip to relegation-threatened Swansea City next weekend and Allardyce said he will review the data from the Merseyside derby before deciding whether Rooney retains his starting role.
"It's simple for me," he said. "There's my eye in the game and then there are the stats after the game. When those stats match what I've seen, for any player, it's where we make our decisions.
"We talk to the player about that situation, whoever it might be, and say levels have to be lifted.
"And when that continues to happen, no matter who it is, whether it's Wayne, Phil Jagielka, Tom Davies or whoever, you get left out of the team."