As we reach the final few months of the season, the battle to earn one of six wild cards to the 2018 Premier League starts to take centre focus. Next year is poised to be one of the more wide open years in recent history, as Phil Taylor is due to retire and as many as six of the other nine participants from 2017 cannot feel that their spots are secure.

In part one of a three-part series, I take a look at six players who have never been in the Premier League and make a case for and a case against each of them receiving a debut invitation in 2018.

Mensur Suljovic

The Case For

The world number seven — besides being ranked number seven — just added his first TV title to a 2017 resume that includes two European Tour finals and a run to the World Matchplay quarter-final. That TV title included five consecutive wins over 2017 Premier League participants in the space of 32 hours. And it came with the crowd warming to him, showing that despite his esoteric style, he’s a crowd favourite.

The Case Against

His 2017 hasn’t been nearly as good as his 2016. Granted, some of that came down to family obligations, as his wife spent much of the season pregnant with the family’s second child, but it has led to a leaner CV than he might otherwise have. Moreover, his standard hasn’t been as good. Suljovic routinely was averaging just over the ton in 2016, while this year it has been more around the 97 to 99 mark, indicating that he may be regressing.

Daryl Gurney

The Case For

Daryl Gurney is one of just two people to reach the semi-finals of both the UK Open and World Matchplay, the other being Peter Wright. That’s on top of his first PDC title, alongside four other finals, including one in a World Series event. He’s just going from strength-to-strength, and he always looks up to the task.

The Case Against

Can he keep this going? Right now, Gurney seems a lock for the Premier League. But Gurney’s still a timing player, and hasn’t shown he can consistently maintain his A-game for extended periods of time. That might cause him some trouble over the next few months, when we’ll see him play lots of longer-format matches. Still, it’s hard to see a scenario where he does not make the Premier League.

Gerwyn Price

The Case For

He’s reached a ranking TV final, which no one else other than Mensur Suljovic has done amongst the potential first-time invitees. And he backed that up with a run to the World Cup final alongside Mark Webster. He played the first three World Series events, reaching the semi-finals of two of them. Moreover, he won a pair of ranking events last year, which only Rob Cross this year has matched amongst those leading the way for their first-ever invite.

The Case Against

If you asked a few months ago, there didn’t seem much one could say against his selection. But since then, immaturity has sometimes outshone his accomplishments. Price has missed multiple events due to registration problems, and he fell out of the World Series rotation after getting invited to the first three World Series events of 2017. He hasn’t been past the quarter-final of a ranking event since April, and he only averaged 88 against Taylor in the Matchplay.

Darren Webster

The Case For

Since the start of November, he’s whitewashed Phil Taylor on television and taken a 6-0 lead over Michael van Gerwen in a TV semi-final. He’s won his first ranking PDC title in over a decade and pushed up the rankings with regularity. Two months ago, he made the quarter-final of the World Matchplay, losing out to Peter Wright in a competitive match. He’s only getting better.

The Case Against

Other than that title in July and the run to the Matchplay quarter-final, Webster has only reached two other quarter-finals or better in 2017. When’s he’s on, he’s one of the most electric players on the circuit, but he has too many off matches. He takes well to television, but he needs to show a lot more in the back end of 2017.

Kyle Anderson

The Case For

He’s won a TV title, something no one else on this list other than Mensur Suljovic has done. And he’s began climbing up the rankings, despite losing out on a lot of prize money from the end of 2016 due to his visa problems. He’s recorded big wins on stage against most of the top players in the world now, and has shown he has the game to rival anyone. Since the World Series, he went on a string of five consecutive Euro Tour matches where he averaged over 100.

The Case Against

He’s only made two ranking TV quarter-finals, and both were last year. He’s thrown in more than his fair share of clunkers on TV, including as recently as the World Cup against Russia. His last six weeks have been very good, but he had an indifferent 2017 before that, including a run of four months where from March to June where he only reached one quarter-final on the Pro Tour and failed to qualify to five Euro Tour events. He needs to prove this isn’t just a hot run of form.

Rob Cross

The Case For

Rob Cross has made Stephen Bunting’s debut season in the PDC look pedestrian, and Bunting got a Premier League invite after the year. Cross has already won two titles, and just made his first Euro Tour final, where he ran out of steam against a brilliant Michael van Gerwen. He accounted himself well in his Matchplay debut, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe he’s going to slow down now.

The Case Against

The comparison to Bunting is his strongest argument for a Premier League invite, but it’s not a fool-proof case. Bunting came to the PDC as the reigning BDO world champion, and he made two television semi-finals and a World Championship quarter-final at the back end of the year. Until Cross matches Bunting’s TV results, his case for a Premier League spot next year is weak. He’s got the talent, but his resume by Premier League standards is still lacking.

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