LONDON The commitment of Dimitri Payet and other West Ham United players has been called into question by one of the club's former midfielders, Matthew Etherington.
The body language of leading player Payet tells of a man who does not want to be out on the field, Etherington said as he analysed the problems besetting Slaven Bilic's struggling team ahead of Sunday's game at Liverpool.
Etherington, who made 195 appearances for West Ham, believes the French international, the club's stand-out player last season, must rediscover his goal touch if the Hammers are to avoid relegation in their first season at the London Stadium.
"There are a lot of players at the club who are out of form and don't seem to be putting in 100 percent," Etherington told Reuters as he reflected on the Hammers sitting just three points off the foot of the table in 17th place.
"When the team go behind then there are too many heads that are dropping. Not enough players are standing up and trying to get hold of the game and make a difference for their side.
"Payet has been worrying in the last few games, his body language for a start.
"I know he is still creating chances for the team but in the game away to Manchester United in the EFL Cup and at home to Arsenal last weekend, Payet looked like he didn't want to be on the pitch."
Although Bilic will take comfort in the fact Liverpool have not beaten West Ham in their last four previous meetings, the Croatian manager knows his time could be running out if fortunes are not quickly reversed.
This week, the club denied holding crisis talks with Bilic but Etherington believes the outcome of the next five games will determine his future at West Ham.
"They (the board) know how tough it is going to be to get a result at Anfield so regardless of what goes on this weekend - barring an 8-0 defeat, which is feasible - he'll last beyond the game against Liverpool," said the 35-year old.
"West Ham have got four really important games coming up after that (Burnley and Hull City at home and Swansea City and Leicester City away).
"I think the Board will give it until then and if they're still in the position they're in now then I think he [Bilic] will be gone. The next five games are crucial."
Etherington, who enjoyed six years with West Ham between 2003-2009, believes the key to survival could lie with the underperforming Payet.
"The manager has got to do his job now and get a tune out of Payet. He needs to get him back into the form he was in last season because then West Ham won't have any problems whatsoever," he said.
"It would be an absolute disaster to move into the new stadium and get relegated in the first season."
(Editing by Ian Chadband)