GRAHAM POLL: Poor football can be blamed for poor decisions from our Premier League refs
While this season has arguably been the most exciting in the Premier League's 18-year history, it will not be remembered as one of the high quality campaigns. Nobody could suggest that Manchester United have been as good as they were when winning their third consecutive title with Cristiano Ronaldo as their top goalscorer. The top two sides only lost six games between them last season, Manchester United have already lost seven this term and Chelsea seven. Where did it go wrong? The top teams have lost more games individually this season than they did collectively last campaign More from Graham Poll... Graham Poll: Ref Dowd got the big decisions right in London derby epic18/04/10 Graham Poll: Kuyt's goal would not have stood in the Champions League09/04/10 GRAHAM POLL: A weekend of chaos in the Premier League... and it may only get worse with so much at stake05/04/10 Graham Poll: No wonder Dean failed to give Chelsea or United vital penalties...04/04/10 Graham Poll: Big decisions are troubling referee Howard Webb04/04/10 GRAHAM POLL: FA should throw the book at Olsson for his blatant cheating30/03/10 GRAHAM POLL: Martin Olsson takes flight to book his place in my worst five dives of the season29/03/10 GRAHAM POLL: Why Malouda, Sturridge and Moyes will escape punishment... but Mancini faces a ban25/03/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVELiverpool's decline continues and with no English team in the semi-finals of the Champions league for the first time in six years that claim about a lowering of standards is hard to argue against. Referees and their assistants have received their share of criticism after a series of high profile controversies, with many observers saying it has been the worst season for the match officials for as long as they can remember. These two facts are definitely linked. Let me explain why. When the quality of play is high it is easier to read play, to anticipate the movement and actions of players and so take up optimum viewing positions which are key to getting decisions correct. When players misplace passes, make unexpected tackles and allow promising attacks to break up defenders find themselves exposed to quick breaks and referees are often too far away to make sound judgements. This is not down to fitness but the ability to get ahead of play and let it come towards you. Just ask a referee at any standard which level is easier to control - the top division they officiate or the lowest? Mind you the lower playing standard making refereeing more difficult is not the only reason for the high level of criticism of officials. Low point: Mikel Arteta should have been given his marching orders for his clash with Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pederson The small number of active Premier League referees has led to fatigue and over familiarity with teams, while inexplicable decisions through the season which continued this weekend. Andre Marriner's failure to dismiss Mikel Arteta for poking Morten Gamst Pederson in the eye or Lee Probert awarding Portsmouth a free kick yesterday after Anthony Vanden Borre wrestled Gabriel Agbonlahor to the floor were the latest low points. It has always been the case that ex-referees look at their current day contemporaries and claim that they are not as good as they were. One thing for sure is that with the prevalence of simulation and exaggeration of offences and more and more intrusive analysis of incidents - there has never been a tougher time to be a referee. GOOD WEEK FOR...Assistant referees Bob Martin, Andy Williams, John Stokes and Mark Hutchinson BAD WEEK FOR...Steve Bennett The quartet could be in line for a financial payout from the Premier League after a tribunal ruled that the PGMOL acted wrongly in forcing them to retire at the age of 48. There must be concern about employment practices at PGMOL headquarters as this case follows the unfair dismissal of Mark Clattenburg. Bennett found himself stranded in Europe due to the grounding of all UK flights and was unable to referee the Manchester derby. Mind you, as Bennett will be 50 next year, he will be heartened by the assistants' victory in their tribunal which confirmed EU regulations regarding age.
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