Former Liverpool star Jamie Redknapp believes Rafael Benitez's "bizarre" decision-making has shattered the Reds' hopes of claiming a first championship since 1990.
The Spanish manager has been subjected to fierce criticism this week after his team made it three straight draws with a disappointing 1-1 stalemate at Wigan on Wednesday night.
Benitez's cryptic post-match dissection of another mediocre performance was greeted by widespread ridicule, while he has also been accused of destabilising the club recently with a rant at Manchester United rival Sir Alex Ferguson, his refusal to sign a new contract and with his marginalisation of striker Robbie Keane.
The net result has been that red-hot United have surged clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League, and Redknapp does not believe Benitez's side will be able to make up the gap.
"Liverpool are going backwards," he wrote in the Daily Mail.
"The decision to take off Steven Gerrard - who was not injured - at Wigan is confusing. What message does it send out? Gerrard will win you a game standing on one leg, so I don't understand what was behind the change.
"The manager has started tinkering with the team again and the body language of the players is not good.
"The destabilising of Robbie Keane is bizarre. He has not performed as well as many expected - me included - but he is better than he is being treated.
"Many clubs would like to have a player of his ability. Keane is a strong personality and a popular player in the dressing room, so the management of the Irishman can only have a negative impact on the squad."
Another ex-Anfield player, John Aldridge, believes the club's problems have been building over the course of the season.
And he has warned that far from claiming a first title for 19 years, Liverpool could end up missing out on the Champions League places altogether given Aston Villa's emergence as a genuine force.
"You can't blame the rant he had at Fergie. That's nothing to do with it," the former Republic of Ireland striker told the Daily Mirror.
"In fact, what Rafa said about Fergie was right but it put him under pressure if things went wrong, and they have."
He added: "Too many draws all season have cost them, not just the last three games.
"If things don't improve soon, then it's really possible to see Villa breaking in and that would make it a real danger for Liverpool not to be in the top four at all."
Defender Glenn Hysen played alongside Aldridge in the championship side of 1989-90 and he believes the buck for Liverpool's recent downturn must stop with Benitez.
"He is a big part of what's gone wrong and the way he's behaved recently proves it," he said.Reuse content