Premier League Darts is back and the 10 best darts players on the planet will be playing in a town or city near you between now and finals night at the 02 in May!
Kim Huybrechts and Stephen Bunting were the two to lose their Premier League status in place of a seasoned PL player in Robert Thornton and the fast improving Michael Smith. The first place to start when looking for the winner of any darts tournament at the moment is Michael van Gerwen. The man is an unbelievable talent who still fires in 3-figure averages on his ‘off days’. Bookies have installed him as 5/4 favourite to regain the title he won way back in 2013 and while that’s understandable given his outrageous form, he is only human and susceptible to the odd lack of concentration and dip in form. That won’t be a concern for him in the league format but once it get’s down to the knockout phase it’s a realistic danger and one that’s enough for me to look elsewhere given the price.
Gary Anderson is the current holder after beating MVG in last year’s final. He’s coming off the back of a second successive victory at Ally Pally where he was crowned the two time world champ so confidence will be sky high for the Scot. Another who always warrants respect in any competition is the legend that is Phil Taylor. Love him or hate him, ‘The Power’ still has the game to win these tournaments but is facing a new challenge in his career. He’s had a few personal problems in the last couple of years including the loss of his mother and going through a divorce but the biggest test he faces is how to deal with not being ‘the man to beat’ anymore. He knows he’s behind MVG these days and that is never likely to change given the age difference but his experience tells him that even though he can still beat van Gerwen, to win a tournament you don’t always necessarily have to. That said Taylor really should have sent MVG packing in the semi’s of The Masters last week, spurning no fewer than seven match darts only for The Green Machine to punish and run out an 11-10 winner.
The debutant Michael Smith is a man I am interested in. Already written off by many, he’s made giant strides in the last 12 months and a lot of that has to come down to the work put in to him by the reigning world champion Gary Anderson. His talent has been on show for a while but his attitude was a big problem. Working with Anderson seems to have tightened up the odd slack dart that he threw and more importantly knocked out the petulant side of Bully Boy’s game. He had a good run in the worlds and should have really made the final, throwing away a 3-0 lead and eventually being knocked out 5-4 by Barney (we tipped him at 66/1 pre tournament). Having Gary on the road with him every week will aid his cause make no mistake, this lad can play. He starts in front of an 11,000 strong crowd in Leeds on week 1 and if he gets a win under his belt he’ll only grow in confidence and become a danger to all.
Of the rest we have Adrian Lewis, a man back in form as he showed with a brilliant run to the world final last month. His main worry is the fact that the league format doesn’t suit him as he’s previously admitted. Peter Wright is as consistent as they come but it is a little off-putting that despite his best season by a mile last year, he couldn’t get his name on a trophy. Dave Chisnall is the biggest 180 scorer in the business and now that he’s added the finishing to his game, he is always a major threat. Chizzy needs to win a major before he starts to become a force in the darting world because his record in the biggest games isn’t great but that win will come soon and this could be his year. James Wade’s form has dipped of late, Raymond van Barneveld is so inconsistent it’s untrue and Robert Thornton faces a tough reintroduction to the Premier League and these three rate my main relegation candidates.
Outright Winner: Gary Anderson at 7/2
Longshot (E/W): Dave Chisnall at 20/1
To Finish Bottom: Robert Thornton at 8/11