Another season of Premier League Darts gets underway on Thursday night and after the late withdrawal of Gary Anderson from the competition, not only is there an open look to the tournament in behind the defending champion Michael van Gerwen, but a quirky new element to the event too.
Michael van Gerwen has won this tournament for the past three seasons and he will be looking for another title this term. Some big players will be out to deny him over the course of the 16 weeks of the event.
2018 – Michael van Gerwen
2017 – Michael van Gerwen
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2015 – Gary Anderson
2014 – Raymond Barneveld
2013 – Michael van Gerwen
2012 – Phil Taylor
2011 – Gary Anderson
2010 – Phil Taylor
2009 – James Wade
The schedule was already announced for the tournament prior to Gary Anderson pulling out late on so the nine remaining players will play each other once in the first stage of the season and to make up a ninth game they will face one of the nine ‘contenders’ who get a game for experience. At the end of that stage the top eight move into the second half of the regular season.
From there on it is a race to the top four with those in the top four after everyone left has played the others for a second time qualifying for the semi-finals which take place at the o2. All matches in the regular season are the best of 12 legs with the semi-finals begin the best of 19 and the final is a 21 leg match.
The top four in the world would automatically have been in the tournament which means that Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Rob Cross and Peter Wright have all qualified by right. Anderson has since withdrawn however but much has been made of that.
The other five players lining up in the tournament are the Players Championship Finals winner Daryl Gurney, 2018 Premier League and World Championship finalist Michael Smith, Grand Slam of Darts champion Gerwyn Price, World Matchplay runner-up Mensur Suljovic and the Dutch legend Raymond Barneveld.
The nine contenders are Chris Dobey, Glen Durrant, Steve Lennon, Luke Humphries, John Henderson, Nathan Aspinall, Max Hopp, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jeffrey de Zwaan. They will all play one match against one of the players in the field over the first nine weeks.
Michael van Gerwen has shortened significantly in the market since the withdrawal of Anderson. In fairness he was shortening anyway after defending his Masters title at the weekend. The world champion is now no bigger than 8/15 to win this title for a fourth time but that isn’t a particularly attractive price when you consider he is going to have to win two tough matches at the o2 to win the title.
World Championship finalist Michael Smith is rated 8/1 second favourite to win this tournament. He was the runner up to van Gerwen in it last year and then lost to the same man in that world final earlier in the year. He has come of age now and should be primed to lay down a big assault on this title but as we saw at the weekend he can be prone to the odd bad performance which can cost him.
Former world champion Rob Cross begins the tournament as an 11/1 shot to win it for the first time. It is a big campaign for Cross. He is not in the form he was in the year he won the world title and with him defending a barrel load of points at the end of 2019 he could really do with some form in the early part of the year beginning in this event.
Peter Wright made the semi-final of The Masters at the weekend and assures everyone he has found a set of darts to settle on which makes him a more attractive possibility at 14/1. He should have won this tournament two years ago but made an absolute mess of match darts in the final against van Gerwen. It is 22/1 bar those named.
I’m going to go with the aforementioned Peter Wright for my outright punt. I liked what I saw from him in the scoring phase of the game at the weekend and while a raft of missed doubles eventually cost him a place in the final in Milton Keynes it won’t take too much work for him to sharpen up on that facet of things.
Wright is seeded to make it to the semi-final and I expect him to do that on the board as well and from there he would be one win from a place return and only two wins from the full bunce. Van Gerwen is an obvious and a rightful favourite but there is enough value in Wright at 14/1.
To Finish Bottom
One of the more interesting markets is the one to finish bottom where as you would expect Gerwyn Price and Raymond Barneveld are vying for favouritism but there could be a bit of a twist this time around with the contenders coming in for a match against the main nine and that might open up the possibility of a surprise relegation candidate. I say that because Pricie faces Luke Humphries, who I would expect him to beat on the massive stage while Barneveld has Hopp. Barneveld might find that tougher but this is his last season so surely he’ll be giving it everything.
The man who could be vulnerable at a massive 25/1 price is Rob Cross. I say that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he will take on Jeffrey de Zwaan in his match against a contender. That will be in Rotterdam so he isn’t going to get any assistance from the crowd. That is on Judgement Night so he won’t be able to pick up points then so he’ll need a strong start to the campaign in order to be safe heading there. When you think he faces Wright, Wade and MVG in the first three weeks he’ll do well to head to Exeter with a positive ledger. Defeat to Daryl Gurney there or to Michael Smith in Aberdeen the following week leaves Cross heavily exposed. At 25/1 I’ll pay to see if he finishes bottom.
To Qualify for Semi-Final
One thing Gary Anderson’s withdrawal has done is open up a spot in the semi-final for someone. To be fair with the form of Rob Cross the way it is there was already a place so now there are two places if we assume that MVG and Wright will justify their seeding.
If we were also to suggest that Michael Smith will claim one there is one left for the other five. I believe James Wade could be value to snatch it at 5/2. He will want to prove his worth at this level again and made his third TV final in three months last weekend so he’s in decent form. Dimitri Van den Bergh wouldn’t be the ideal pick for a contender to take on but he’s dropped off from a year or two ago and were Daryl Gurney to be his main challenge for the semi-final berth he has Glen Durrant in his contender match. Wade will do me at 5/2.
Back P.Wright to win Premier League Darts (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 with Betfair (1/3 1-2)
Back him here:
Back R.Cross to finish bottom for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Betway
Back J.Wade to qualify for semi-final for a 3/10 stake at 3.50 with William Hill
Back him here: