"How the mighty have fallen" might be an appropriate subtitle for Liverpool v Arsenal, which is the weekend's big match in the English Premier League but nowhere near as important as their last encounter at Anfield. Back in February, Arsenal arrived on Merseyside as Premier League leaders but it was a match that confirmed Liverpool as serious title contenders with a 5-1 victory. Arsenal were knocked off the top of the table, never to return, as first Chelsea, then Liverpool and finally Manchester City held sway above them. The title challenges of last season are fading and both teams face an almighty scrap just to finish in the top four It is remarkable to think that match took place little more than 10 months ago because Arsenal are now sixth, 13 points off the searing pace set by Chelsea, and Liverpool are another five points back in 11th place. The title challenges of last season are fading and both teams face an almighty scrap just to finish in the top four. The reason behind Liverpool's fall can be summed up by one name: Daniel Sturridge. The evidence suggests that, even without Luis Suarez, Liverpool would be doing much better - probably in the top four - if Sturridge had been fit all season. Since the start of last season, Sturridge has played eight games without Suarez alongside him in attack and he and Liverpool have done rather well. Liverpool have won five and drawn one of those eight games (one of the two losses was away to Manchester City) with an average of two points per game. Over an entire season that would give them 76 points, which in most seasons is enough to finish in the top four. Contrast that with Liverpool's poor record during Sturridge's long absence this season: only four wins out of 13 with an average of 1.15 points per game. In that context most of the other arguments about Brendan Rodgers' stewardship are peripheral. It is true that most of his summer signings have not been successful, but that might have been different if Sturridge had been present and Rodgers had been able to integrate the new players more gradually. We have to remember that Rodgers got ahead of any reasonable schedule in finishing second last season and he is still having to build up a squad depth that matches the other clubs in the Premier League's big six. The big question that hangs over Rodgers is whether he can solve Liverpool's defensive weaknesses, which were a major reason they missed out on the title last season and have not been eased by the summer arrival of Dejan Lovren from Southampton. Liverpool have managed only four clean sheets in 16 matches (Burnley, Sunderland, West Brom and Aston Villa all have more) and, without their previous goalscoring power, that has left them vulnerable. Yet the same can be said of Arsenal, who have kept only one more clean sheet than Liverpool and do not look any more solid at the back. In their case, it is more of an indictment of the manager as Arsene Wenger has been able to plan for season after season and any imbalance in the squad is largely down to him. It is more valid to question Wenger than Rodgers over the holes in his squad and it must be galling for Gunners fans to see Alex Song - who left Arsenal for Barcelona before returning to England on loan - playing across London with West Ham and doing so well in pushing his new team to fourth place, two points above his former club. The weaknesses of Liverpool and Arsenal have been most evident against higher-class opposition this season, with both having won only two out of eight against top-half teams. That makes it difficult to pick a winner in tomorrow's match, although Liverpool would be the handicap choice, and the best bet may be over 2.5 goals. Song has been a key player for West Ham, who have lost only one out of nine with him in the side, and his midfield drive should help take them to another three points at home to bottom club Leicester. West Ham rate the best bet in the Premier League, but for bigger odds it is worth going for Swansea away to plummeting Hull and QPR at home to West Brom. The handicap option is also viable for Swansea and QPR. Chelsea face a serious test over Christmas as they have to wait until Monday to visit Stoke and that is the first of three matches in seven days, with the others at home to West Ham and away to Southampton. Chelsea dropped five points in the equivalent three fixtures last season and will need to do better this time. Queens Park Rangers, Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers.