Premier League Referee Power Rankings: August 2019
September 4, 2019
Welcome to a new series on Player23! This season, I will be power-ranking the referees in the Premier League after each month of play, starting with August.
I will be focusing on centre referees only, although assistant referees’ performances will factor into the rankings as well. I will not take into account referees’ performances as VARs, given that none of them actually do anything, nor will any European or international matches come into consideration.
Since some referees are given games week-in and week-out while others find appointments very few and far between, I will only be taking the top ten referees for each set of rankings (although ‘top ten’ may prove to be a misleading phrase). At the end, I’ll also identify, in my opinion, the worst performer of the month.
Note that the rankings for this month will include matches that took place on September 1, so through to the end of Matchweek 4.
1. Anthony Taylor
August 11: Man United v Chelsea August 17: Brighton v West Ham August 24: Liverpool v Arsenal September 1: Everton v Wolves
Taylor was awarded two massive fixtures in the opening month of the season, Man United v Chelsea and Liverpool v Arsenal, and came out of both of them pretty unscathed, so he takes the top spot in the rankings. He gave correct penalties in each of those two games, and didn’t miss anything major that (in other leagues, anyways) would have been overturned by VAR.
2. Chris Kavanagh
August 10: Tottenham v Aston Villa August 24: Watford v West Ham August 31: Burnley v Liverpool
Kavanagh has stayed under the radar in his first three games, which is exactly what the PGMOL will be looking for right about now. He’s only had to give three yellow cards so far and has remained in the background whenever he’s been on the pitch – all in all, a terrific first few fixtures.
3. Jonathan Moss
August 10: Crystal Palace v Everton August 19: Wolves v Man United August 31: Man City v Brighton
I’m normally a big critic of Moss, but he’s had a surprisingly impressive start to the season. He gave out the season’s first red card in Crystal Palace v Everton, correctly sending off Morgan Schneiderlin for a second bookable offence, and had a decent performance in Wolves v Man United as well, with an easy penalty call and also a correct yellow card for diving to Daniel James.
4. Michael Oliver
August 9: Liverpool v Norwich August 17: Man City v Tottenham August 23: Aston Villa v Everton
Oliver had the season’s curtain-raiser at Anfield, which went by without controversy, and overall his refereeing quality is on another level to most other PL officials. However, in Man City v Tottenham, although City’s equalizing goal was correctly ruled out by VAR due to an Aymeric Laporte handball (an offence which you cannot expect a referee to view in real time), Oliver missed a pretty clear penalty when Erik Lamela manhandled Rodri on a corner kick, which keeps him out of the top three.
5. Stuart Attwell
August 17: Norwich v Newcastle August 31: Chelsea v Sheffield United
Attwell has struggled a bit in the past couple of years, but he’s been pretty solid over the first month of this season. He did particularly well in Chelsea v Sheffield United, following up on a good season debut at Carrow Road a few weeks back.
6. Craig Pawson
August 10: Watford v Brighton August 25: Wolves v Burnley
The most high-pressure decision of the month award goes to Pawson, who awarded a game-tying second-half stoppage-time penalty to Wolves against Burnley. I often criticize Pawson for being ridiculously inconsistent with his decisions, but he made a gutsy one at Molineux and he was spot-on in doing so.
7. Andre Marriner
August 11: Leicester v Wolves August 17: Southampton v Liverpool August 25: Bournemouth v Man City
Marriner has been generally solid over the first month, but a missed penalty call in Bournemouth v Man City keeps him lower in the rankings. In fairness, the challenge on David Silva may have been hard to see clearly in real time, and City ran out comfortable winners anyways, but the replays are pretty damning.
8. Mike Dean
August 10: West Ham v Man City August 17: Arsenal v Burnley August 25: Tottenham v Newcastle August 31: Southampton v Man United
Dean missed a penalty in Tottenham v Newcastle in what I believe was a clear case of the “if I don’t call it and it’s obvious enough, the VAR will call it for me” mindset. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the Premier League, and so we have a rare case of Mr. Showbiz not taking an opportunity to point to the spot. He did show a red card in Southampton v Man United, the 101st of his PL career.
9. Kevin Friend
August 10: Bournemouth v Sheffield United August 24: Brighton v Southampton August 31: Crystal Palace v Aston Villa
The first referee this season to give out two red cards (and they were two very good ones), Friend would have been on track for an easy top-three place but for his massive blunder in cautioning Jack Grealish for diving just before Aston Villa equalized against Crystal Palace, goal which was ruled out as a result. It may not have been a foul on Grealish, but it certainly was not an act of simulation either, and it cost Villa two points in the league and Friend six or seven places in the rankings.
10. Martin Atkinson
August 11: Newcastle v Arsenal August 17: Aston Villa v Bournemouth August 24: Norwich v Chelsea September 1: Arsenal v Tottenham
Atkinson barely squeaks into the top ten after getting progressively worse in his matches over the course of the month. Notably, he missed a clear penalty for Cesar Azpilicueta in Chelsea’s win at Norwich, and then missed another pretty blatant rugby-tackle in the penalty area by Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos on Tottenham’s Dele Alli in the derby. Regarding the Harry Kane incident, I think you can make an argument for and against a penalty, so I’m okay with the non-call. But a series of typically lenient performances and wrong decisions leaves the experienced referee at the wrong end of the rankings.
August’s Worst: Paul Tierney
August 24: Man United v Southampton August 31: West Ham v Norwich
Tierney has had a couple of shockers in his first few games, and is the season’s first Worst of the Month. He missed a pretty clear Norwich City penalty in their loss to West Ham, when Sebastien Haller was upended, and then failed to give another pretty obvious one at Old Trafford in Manchester United v Crystal Palace (though he did eventually award United one later in the game) when Anthony Martial was brought down. Overall, I thought Tierney was shaky in general in his matches, and lacked the presence and authority he needed on the pitch.