After Liverpool thrashed Newcastle 5-1 on December 28, they led the table by three points, had a 10-point advantage over Manchester United and their title odds were cut to 9/4.

Yet from the following day, off-field issues began to dominate the headlines at the club. The first was the arrest of captain Steven Gerrard. That was followed by manager Rafael Benitez's public castigation of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and disclosures about his contract negotiations. After a few quiet months, political turmoil at boardroom level also returned to the surface. All could have had a destabilising effect.


The Spaniard's Ferguson outburst is beginning to look even more ill-advised after the last three results. Had his side won those games, the matter would have blown over. If the title slips away, it will long be remembered as a turning point, even if other factors were the real reason.

Benitez's selections have always raised eyebrows and his treatment of £20million man Robbie Keane continues to puzzle. Keane has been fully fit but still fails to feature regularly. It was especially surprising against Stoke when Fernando Torres was not deemed fit enough to play. It has to be said though, Keane's performance against Everton was poor.


It is fair to say that while United have benefited from a little, Liverpool have been down on theirs. Stoke deserved to take a point off them but they could easily have had none after Gerrard hit the woodwork twice in the last five minutes. They were also only three minutes away from beating Everton and seven short of seeing off Wigan.


Liverpool paid the price for sitting back and failing to kill off Everton as they conceded a late free-kick and Mikel Arteta crossed for Tim Cahill to score. At Wigan, they got careless in defence and Lucas gave away the penalty for Mido to equalise.