Premier League watch: Four players from 2017 line-up who could be dropped next year

In part two of this three-part series, I take a look at four players who played in the 2017 Premier League and have been Premier League regulars over the past few years. I make a case for them being dropped, in addition to a case against them being dropped.

Adrian Lewis

The Case For

It hasn’t been the greatest 20 months for the double world champion. Since losing out to Gary Anderson in the 2016 World Championship final, Adrian Lewis has failed to reach a premier TV final, apart from the pairs format World Cup. His only other TV final of any level came in a World Series event in Auckland. Outside the Matchplay, he hasn’t been past the last 16 of a single ranking major, and in the floor events he’s managed just one title since February 2016. If he doesn’t improve soon, he could be out of the top 16 come January. And that doesn’t even get to the fact that he struggled mightily in the Premier League this year.

The Case Against

His form is no more worrying than that of Gary Anderson a few years ago, and it didn’t cost Anderson his spot in the Premier League. Moreover, he’s given flashes to make us think an upswing in results isn’t too far off. And none of that gets to the most important point that Adrian Lewis is, after Phil Taylor, the biggest active name in English darts. With Taylor retiring, the Premier League will suffer a major headlining hit. It is a business, and Adrian Lewis’s CV says he deserves a free pass, at least for next year.

Dave Chisnall

The Case For

He’s already been dropped from the World Series rotation, missing out on the last five World Series events, including Germany. That’s on top of some indifferent form since the summer recess, losing all four matches he has played at the European Tour and in the Champions League this month. He’s only won his board at half the Players Championship events he’s played this year, a low number for a Premier League-caliber player. And he’s gone out second match at both the UK Open and the World Matchplay, the two ranking TV majors to date.

The Case Against

Despite falling short of the play-offs this year, Dave Chisnall was undoubtedly the best player during the second half of the Premier League. He went unbeaten, and just missed a couple of tricks that in the end cost him a spot at the O2. His form up to the final in Shanghai is about as good as anyone has shown in the World Series events this year. Okay, he hasn’t had a deep run in a ranking TV event this year, but he’s made a good account of himself. And we all know Dave Chisnall’s best darts generally come deep into autumn. Even if he hasn’t done enough right, he’s not done anything to merit getting dropped.

Raymond van Barneveld

The Case For

Outside the World Championships, there’s not much to distinguish Raymond van Barneveld from the other contenders for the Premier League. He played all the World Series events and made just one final, and his form in the Premier League this year was as bad as it has ever been. All that would be fine if the PDC wasn’t already going out and trying fresh faces. But the PDC has been, and those fresh faces have reached two World Series finals (Daryl Gurney and Corey Cadby) and won another (Kyle Anderson). The days of Barney getting free passes may be limited.

The Case Against

He’s Raymond van Barneveld. He’s a five-time world champion who is still nearly as popular now as he’s always been. And with Phil Taylor retiring, losing van Barneveld from the Premier League will be a huge marketing loss. Moreover, he’s shown he still has it. Had it not been for an untimely power cut, Barney may well have won the UK Open, and he never got going in the Matchplay because he had to play Phil Taylor second round. And then there was the Champions League this past weekend, where he beat Michael van Gerwen and only got knocked out in the semi-final by a 160-out from Mensur Suljovic. It’s not panic time yet for Barney.

James Wade

The Case For

Since the UK Open, James Wade has entered 21 ranking tournaments and has only made it further than the last 16 twice. He went out first round of the World Matchplay, and his performances in the World Series events have been at best uneven, including a defeat to Canadian Dawson Murschell in Las Vegas. He’s dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in over a decade, and is outside the top 24 in seasonal ranking earnings, which no one has ever done and still made Premier League. Add in that he only finished seventh in the Premier League, ahead of only Adrian Lewis, and got only three points against the top 6 in the second half of the season, and it might be time for Wade to get another break from the Premier League.

The Case Against

Although Wade hasn’t gotten results as of late, he put in some turn-back-the-clock performances in New Zealand and Australia. Moreover, he’s not defending that much money in the back end of 2017, which could see him rise back into the top 8 or even top 6 by just a marginal increase in form. Wade will have ample opportunities over the next few months to make an even stronger case, and it’s hard to imagine someone of Wade’s talent not making one or more deep televised runs before the World Championship. His case may now look shaky, but give it time and it will make itself.


Premier League watch: Six players who could potentially be in the running to make their debuts in 2018

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.

Race to Wolverhampton: Champions League triumph secures Grand Slam spot for Mensur Suljovic

Mensur Suljovic’s stunning victory in the Unibet Champions League of Darts at the weekend has secured him a spot in the bwin Grand Slam of Darts in November.

The world number seven was a 40/1 pre-tournament outsider to win the title in Cardiff, the Austrian upsetting the odds with consecutive victories over Gary Anderson (twice), Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall and Raymond van Barneveld to clinch his maiden televised title in the PDC.

The victory for Suljovic has seen him become the 15th player to have now pre-qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts, with the criteria including the finalists from the Champions League.

TV event winners alongside Suljovic include reigning Grand Slam of Darts champion Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld and Corey Cadby, while finalists Gary Anderson, James Wade, Berry van Peer, Gerwyn Price, Dave Chisnall and Mark Webster are also currently qualified for the 32-player field for the Wolverhampton event.

Among the eight BDO representatives, Glen Durrant, Danny Noppert and Peter Machin have all qualified, and they will be joined by the top five ranked players from the organisation’s rankings on September 30.

Review: Target Phil Taylor Power-9Five Generation 4 26g Darts

When Target got in touch with us just after the World Matchplay, offering us a set of the Power-9Five Generation 4 26g darts to review, the exact same darts which Phil Taylor had just used to win the tournament in Blackpool for a record 16th time, we did not need a second invitation.

As someone who has only really used darts weighing between 19-22g, it did feel a bit daunting at first when the darts to review arrived at Love The Darts HQ. Just a few days had passed since Taylor was using these darts (well, not this exact set!) to win the World Matchplay, and here I was trying them out for myself on my board at home.

Let’s start at the top of the dart: the flight. The Generation 4 darts are equipped with a ghost flight, a unique flight created by Target, which uses a UV chevron grip for ‘the best possible flight hold.’

And they are not wrong in that respect. I’m used to the flights falling out of my darts when entering the board from time to time, but with the Generation 4 darts not once did one of the flights come out, or even appear to be loose, so that certainly gets my approval.

The flights themselves are not the most durable, though, and I did notice after a few hours of use some tears had appeared. From my experience this is not an issue solely for the ghost flight, as my regular size flights will also encounter some wear and tear over time through general usage.

Moving further down the dart, the Generation 4 darts are fitted with a G4 Titanium Power Shaft, which the packaging says have been designed to Taylor’s ‘exact specification’ and are ‘specifically balanced for the stacking style of play ‘The Power’ is known for.’

I may not have been able to replicate the 16-time world champion’s ‘stacking style of play’ when using the Generation 4 darts, but I did get glimpses of it in action while playing with them.

In terms of the flight of the dart through the air, whenever a dart landed in the treble 20, and on top of the bottom wire, it was a rewarding feeling, being able to, momentarily, repeat the desired outcome which Taylor has achieved with these darts on many occasions this year.

Now onto the grip and the barrel of the dart. The Generation 4 uses a textured matt grip, which has been sandblasted by hand using fine particles to create this texture.

The result is a successful one, as it gives you a better grip when holding the dart at the rear of the barrel, while lower down the barrel, for those who use a central grip, a mix of precision milled axial grooves and radial synergy grooves also provide the darter with an improved grip.

I must say this part of the dart is probably my favourite. When looking for a dart to use, the grip has to be one of the areas which is important to get right. Get it wrong and you will struggle with your action and ultimately releasing the dart.

I found the grip on the Generation 4 darts to be beneficial to my throw, and even found after a few hours of using them that it had improved it and made it more smoother.

The bottom of the barrel uses a Black Titanium Nitride Coating, which also helps to enhance the grip of the dart, while the Black Diamond Pro point features a laser diamond pattern for ‘extra grip in the board.’

Before beginning the trial with the darts, I must admit when I first picked them up in my hand I was worried if they were going to stick in the board or not. My throw at times can be quite forceful, but I thought I may have to use even more power to try and keep them in the board.

However, this proved to be far from the case. I can recall perhaps one or two bounce outs from the hours I spent overall using the darts, which is a quite impressive figure on its own.

Even after a bad release, when the dart appeared to be hanging on and with an awkward trajectory in the board, when I went to retrieve it after my throw I found that it was stable in the board and was not loose at all.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the Generation 4 darts. The retail price (£84.95) is not cheap and would put off some, but to own what is essentially a piece of sporting history does not come cheap I suppose.

These are the darts that Taylor has been using during his final season on the professional circuit, and will be the darts he uses for his final tournament, the World Championship, at the end of the year. So I can see how the price has been negotiated to that figure, and I’ll also point out the extra work that has been put in to make these darts look as appealing as they are.

The Generation 4 is a quality dart and it is to be expected given the player they have been designed for. Taylor has mastered them and in the, albeit, limited success I found with them compared to him it is a rewarding experience when you do find the bottom of the treble 20 with your first dart with the same trajectory which ‘The Power’ has famously done.

The 26g makes them easily the heaviest dart I have ever thrown with, so it has been a challenge to adjust to the weight, but I would expect that regardless of which 26g set of darts I was using.

I intend to continue practicing with them and seeing how much progress I can make. For players used to throwing in the 26g region I would expect a smoother transition, the Generation 4 darts are a thing of beauty!

4.5 out of 5 stars

Unibet World Grand Prix first round draw: Michael van Gerwen to begin defence of title against Scotland’s John Henderson

Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his Unibet World Grand Prix title against Scotland’s John Henderson in the first round in Dublin next month.

The world number one claimed his third title in the double-start tournament by beating Gary Anderson 5-2 in last year’s final, and the Dutchman has been handed an opening round clash with Henderson, ranked 32nd on the PDC Order of Merit, to start his bid for a fourth triumph in Ireland.

The 20th staging of the World Grand Prix gets underway at the Citywest Hotel, in Dublin, two weeks today, with the first round draw having taken place this morning.

Second seed Gary Anderson, who lost out to van Gerwen in the final 12 months ago, takes on debutant Richard North, third seed Peter Wright faces former BDO world champion Stephen Bunting, and fourth seed Adrian Lewis, a runner-up in Dublin back in 2010, has been drawn against Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney in a mouth-watering last 32 tie.

Fifth seed Dave Chisnall, a finalist in 2013, goes up against former world champion Jelle Klaasen, sixth seed Mensur Suljovic plays Ian White, seventh seed Michael Smith takes on Gerwyn Price, and eighth seed Raymond van Barneveld, twice a runner-up in the World Grand Prix, meets recent Auckland Darts Masters winner Kyle Anderson.

Elsewhere in the draw, 2015 champion Robert Thornton, who only got in the field for this year’s event following the withdrawal of Phil Taylor, takes on Kim Huybrechts, while 2008 and 2010 winner James Wade will play Steve West, who memorably knocked out Taylor in his World Grand Prix debut 12 months ago.

Mervyn King, the 2012 runner-up, has drawn Ronny Huybrechts, Benito van de Pas takes on Cristo Reyes, and Simon Whitlock faces Christian Kist.

Rob Cross, the highest-placed qualifier on the Pro Tour Order of Merit, goes up against Steve Beaton, Joe Cullen faces off with Daren Webster, and Alan Norris battles Justin Pipe in the other first round ties.

2017 Unibet World Grand Prix first round draw
(1) Michael van Gerwen v John Henderson
Alan Norris v Justin Pipe
(8) Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
Steve Beaton v Rob Cross
(5) Dave Chisnall v Jelle Klaasen
Robert Thornton v Kim Huybrechts
(4) Adrian Lewis v Daryl Gurney
Joe Cullen v Darren Webster
(2) Gary Anderson v Richard North
Simon Whitlock v Christian Kist
(7) Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Benito van de Pas v Cristo Reyes
(6) Mensur Suljovic v Ian White
Steve West v James Wade
(3) Peter Wright v Stephen Bunting
Mervyn King v Ronny Huybrechts

William O’Connor and Jason Cullen to contest for Ally Pally spot in Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay final

William O’Connor and Jason Cullen will battle it out for a place in the William Hill World Championship after both made it through to the final of the Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay.

Ireland’s premier domestic tournament took place in Tramore over the weekend, with O’Connor and Cullen securing their places in the final, which will take place on stage at the Citywest Hotel, in Dublin, next month.

Cappamore’s O’Connor has played in several majors before, including the World Grand Prix and UK Open, and has also represented the Republic of Ireland at the World Cup of Darts.

The 31-year-old has yet to appear in the World Championship though, but wins over Dean Forde, Martin Byrne and Roy Bailie has put him now one game away from clinching his debut at the Alexandra Palace at the end of the year.

Wexford-based Cullen, who has qualified for the BDO World Championship and World Masters in the past, is aiming to secure his debut in a PDC televised tournament.

The 29-year-old saw off Sheamus Hagan, Anthony Whoriskey and Keith Rooney to reach the decider, which will take place ahead of the Unibet World Grand Prix final on October 7.

The Tramore Darts Festival also featured the Irish qualifier for the upcoming Unicorn World Youth Championship, with Nathan Rafferty defeating Dean Finn 5-3 in the final to book his spot in November’s event.

Rafferty recorded wins over Luke Pearse and Ronan McCarthy on his way to reaching the decider, where he got the better of Finn to earn him the Irish Youth Matchplay title alongside a spot in the World Youth Championship.

Unibet World Grand Prix field confirmed as Phil Taylor’s withdrawal opens the door for 2015 winner Robert Thornton

The field for next month’s Unibet World Grand Prix has been confirmed this afternoon, with Phil Taylor’s decision not to compete in the double-start event opening the door for 2015 winner Robert Thornton.

The PDC’s third longest-running televised tournament will be staged at Dublin’s Citywest Hotel from October 1-7, with 32 players competing for £400,000 in prize money.

The event features the unique double-start format, meaning that players have to both begin and end every leg with a double throughout the tournament, which is also played in a sets format.

11-time winner Taylor, currently ranked fourth in the world, qualified as one of the top 16 players on the PDC Order of Merit, however he has decided against playing in Dublin as he continues to wind down his career ahead of retiring from the professional circuit at the end of the season.

Taylor’s withdrawal means a reprieve for 2015 champion Thornton, who was set to miss the event after dropping to 17th on the main Order of Merit, a winner in Ireland two years ago when he beat this year’s defending champion Michael van Gerwen in the final.

Van Gerwen won his third World Grand Prix in the double-start event when he reclaimed the title 12 months ago, and he will head the eight seeded players in the tournament.

Gary Anderson, Peter Wright, Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall, Mensur Suljovic, Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld will also be seeded in Sunday’s first round draw.

Jelle Klaasen, two-time World Grand Prix winner James Wade, Daryl Gurney, Kim Huybrechts, Ian White, Benito van de Pas, Simon Whitlock and Thornton complete the 16 qualifiers from the PDC Order of Merit.

Rob Cross, a runner-up in the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix this past weekend, heads the 16 Pro Tour Order of Merit qualifiers as he prepares for his World Grand Prix debut.

Christian Kist, Richard North and Ronny Huybrechts have also secured their debuts in the double-start tournament, with the other Pro Tour qualifiers including Mervyn King, Steve Beaton, Stephen Bunting, Justin Pipe, Steve West, Alan Norris, Joe Cullen, Gerwyn Price, Kyle Anderson, Cristo Reyes, Darren Webster and John Henderson.

2017 Unibet World Grand Prix
PDC Order of Merit Qualifiers (Seeding in brackets)
Michael van Gerwen (1), Gary Anderson (2), Peter Wright (3), Adrian Lewis (4), Dave Chisnall (5), Mensur Suljovic (6), Michael Smith (7), Raymond van Barneveld (8), Jelle Klaasen, James Wade, Daryl Gurney, Kim Huybrechts, Ian White, Benito van de Pas, Simon Whitlock, Robert Thornton.
ProTour Order of Merit Qualifiers
Rob Cross, Alan Norris, Joe Cullen, Mervyn King, Gerwyn Price, Steve Beaton, Kyle Anderson, Cristo Reyes, Darren Webster, Stephen Bunting, Christian Kist, John Henderson, Justin Pipe, Steve West, Richard North, Ronny Huybrechts.

William Hill World Championship qualifying update: Five international qualifiers now confirmed in the field

Five of the 72 places in the 2018 William Hill World Championship have now been confirmed.

Japan’s Seigo Asada is the latest player to secure his spot in the tournament, which this year will offer a record £1,800,000 prize fund, after winning the PDJ Qualifier.

Asada joins America’s Willard Bruguier, New Zealand’s Cody Harris, Australia’s Gordon Mathers and Finland’s Kim Viljanen as the five players to qualify so far as international qualifiers.

The 72-player field for the Alexandra Palace event will be made up of the top 32 players on the PDC Order of Merit, the next top 16 players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit and 24 players from international qualifiers and the PDPA Qualifier.

2018 William Hill World Darts Championship (Qualified players so far)
Willard Bruguier (North American Darts Championship winner)
Cody Harris (DartsPlayers New Zealand Qualifier)
Gordon Mathers (DPA Pro Tour #1)
Kim Viljanen (PDCNB Order of Merit #1)
Seigo Asada (PDJ Qualifier)

Seigo Asada wins PDJ Japanese Qualifier to secure debut at William Hill World Championship in December

Seigo Asada will make his debut in the William Hill World Championship in December after winning the PDJ Japanese Qualifier.

The 37-year-old, from Osaka, lost out in the semi-finals of last year’s qualifier, but went all the way this time round to secure his first Alexandra Palace appearance.

Asada picked up 4-1 wins over Noriyuki Negishi, Toyokazu Shibata and Shingo Enomata to reach the final, where he saw off the challenge of Yuya Higuchi 5-2 to win the qualifier.

Asada has experience on the big stage having taken on two-time world champion Gary Anderson in the Tokyo Darts Masters last year, and he has also qualified for the BDO World Championship three times.

2017 PDJ Japanese Qualifier
First Round
Toyokazu Shibata 4-3 Hisato Sotoosa
Seigo Asada 4-1 Noriyuki Negishi
Tatsuya Zama 4-1 Katsuya Aiba
Shingo Enomata 4-0 Osamu Niki
Shin Higashida 4-3 Sho Katsumi
Haruki Muramatsu 4-3 Taro Yachi
Keita Ono 4-1 Satoaki Taguchi
Yuya Higuchi 4-2 Kenichi Aijiki

Seigo Asada 4-1 Toyokazu Shibata
Shingo Enomata 4-1 Tatsuya Zama
Haruki Muramatsu 4-2 Shin Higashida
Yuya Higuchi 4-2 Keita Ono

Seigo Asada 4-1 Shingo Enomata
Yuya Higuchi 4-2 Haruki Muramatsu

Seigo Asada 5-2 Yuya Higuchi