The 2015 Premier League culminates tomorrow evening, as Michael van Gerwen, Dave Chisnall, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld fight it out to be Premier League Champion at the O2 Arena. Ahead of tomorrow’s curtain-raiser, I have given my take on the current crop and devised a number of special awards, reviewing some of the most important and memorable moments of this year’s competition! Do you agree? Let me know, by commenting below. NB: Stay tuned for Part 2, which will be posted tomorrow!
Best Match: VAN GERWEN 6-6 CHISNALL (Week 15)
It is rather fitting that arguably the best encounter of the league phase was the final match of the final week. Dave Chisnall and Michael van Gerwen were both vying for top spot and served up an extremely special contest. There were a few contenders in this category; Raymond van Barneveld’s win over Phil Taylor in Glasgow was a phenomenal contest, Chisnall and Kim Huybrechts were also involved in a thrilling battle in week 4, however this just edges it.
Both players throw at a similarly fast pace; which is conducive to prolific scoring and maximum hitting. The standard was stratospheric; three of the opening four legs were won in 12 darts or less and MvG clinched leg eight within 10 darts. There were several shifts in momentum; Chisnall edged ahead, but the Green Machine bounced back instantly.
At 5-5, with MvG poised to secure a point and top spot as a result, Chizzy stunned the World No.1 with a phenomenal 161 checkout, to break the throw and leave him on the cusp of victory. Chisnall hit a fine 180 to leave himself on 66, but van Gerwen illustrated why he’s the best player in World Darts at present; nailing a clinical 108 finish to snatch a point and preserve 1st place in the table. The averages reflected the quality on show; Chisnall averaged 106, van Gerwen 113. It was an absolute classic.
Best performance: VAN BARNEVELD 7-4 Taylor (Week 7)
This is an extremely difficult decision. Dave Chisnall averaged 114 in demolishing James Wade 7-1, Michael van Gerwen whitewashed Wade 7-0 with a 116.90 average, whilst Adrian Lewis kicked off the Premier League season with a 7-1 victory over defending Champ Raymond van Barneveld; Jackpot posted a 113.80 average en route to victory. However, van Barneveld’s victory over Taylor was absolutely astonishing, given the context.
Just one week prior to this match, van Barneveld had suffered a 7-3 defeat to Wade, averaging a paltry 88 to put his title hopes in major jeopardy. Although he had beaten Taylor in last year’s semi-finals, his recent record against the Power had been indifferent to say the least; therefore factoring in Taylor’s 115.80 average, Raymond’s victory was all the more remarkable.
The early signs were ominous; Taylor stormed in a 2-0 lead and was threatening a double-break. However, he opted against going for the bull for a 125 checkout with van Barneveld sat on 144 and he was punished emphatically. Many players often try ‘too hard’ to prove a point when opponents don’t go for the bull, however Barney was coolness personified and this checkout arguably galvanised his entire Premier League campaign. His clutch-doubling against the 16-time World Champion was sensational; Taylor, who is not renowned for his 180 hitting, posted NINE maximums in just 11 legs, but RvB was unperturbed and his timing was impeccable.
Taylor’s 115.80 average was the highest ever recorded televised average in defeat, which is testament to the character and quality shown by the five-time World Champ. Out of the 7 legs won; 5 of those legs were won with his last dart at a double. Under such intense pressure, due to Taylor’s level of performance and his own perilous league position, it was in my opinion, the most impressive performance from any individual in this year’s Premier League.
Surprise Package- DAVE CHISNALL
This is a pretty conclusive decision. Before the action kicked off in Leeds on February 5th, Dave Chisnall, along with Kim Huybrechts, was favourite to be relegated from the Premier League. He has proven his critics emphatically wrong. Chisnall performed well in his debut campaign in 2014, despite finishing 8th. He competed well in virtually all his matches, but he lost a large proportion of games 7-4 and 7-5; he lacked that cutting edge and ruthlessness required to succeed at the top-level. However, fast-forward 12 months and the St Helen’s ace is a far more complete player.
In the opening three weeks, Chisnall had amassed 5pts from a possible 6, despite failing to average over 95. Whilst some may potentially point to good fortune, I believe it shows the evolution within Chizzy’s game. Top-players are not simply defined by their ability to post 115 averages and win at a canter; they have the character and mentality to win tight matches, whilst not playing at their best. This is what Chisnall did.
Chisnall has averaged over 100 for six successive weeks, which just demonstrates the consistency he has added to his game over the last 12/18 months. The major question marks surrounding Chizzy’s hopes of securing a PDC major have centred round his doubles. However, over 15 weeks of competition, Dave boasts the second-highest checkout percentage, 42.17%. This should dispel any concerns about Dave’s checkout capability; will he secure his first ever PDC major title at the O2?
The Biggest ‘What If’: ADRIAN LEWIS
I am a huge admirer of Adrian Lewis; he is a very genuine guy and is certainly an immense talent. Nevertheless, it’s been another Premier League campaign of ‘what ifs’ for Lewis. Ironically, he peaked in week 1, where he dispatched reigning Champion van Barneveld 7-1 with a 113.80 average. He then failed to secure another win until Judgement Night, where he had to beat Peter Wright to ensure his survival. Jackpot did so, thanks to some excellent finishing, including an 88 finish for a 5-3 lead. This launched the start of a four match unbeaten run that put him firmly in play-off contention.
However, he suffered double-header defeat against Dave Chisnall and Raymond van Barneveld which virtually ended his play-off hopes. His performance against RvB was particularly disappointing; Adrian only averaged 89 in a 7-2 loss. However, against van Gerwen the following week; he was in irresistible form. He didn’t just beat van Gerwen; he outplayed him, averaging 108.91 and hitting 8 180’s in the process.
Adrian is a mercurial talent which makes him so exciting to watch, yet in the same breath, he can be so frustrating. He possesses incredible natural ability, but he cannot replicate this high-level of performance on a consistent basis. In 9 years of competition, he has only reached the play-offs twice; which is unforgivable for a man of Adrian’s talent. It appears he prefers the pressure of knockout competition and he is certainly in the form to do considerable damage in this year’s major tournaments; but I’m sure Adrian will have regrets over another fruitless campaign from his perspective.
Best Walk-On: RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD/MICHAEL VAN GERWEN
I couldn’t split the two Dutchman in the walk-on stakes. The atmosphere just intensifies as these two Darting goliaths enter the stage and their walk-on music is integral to this. Raymond recently suggested he may consider changing his walk-on to an ACDC track; I hope this isn’t the case as ‘Survivor’ is one of my all-time favourites. Phil Taylor’s walk-on is also a crowd favourite, although unfortunately for Phil, I have automatically disqualified him from this category, due to his insistence on wearing a ‘Phil Taylor Cap’ to the oche for three successive weeks. Sorry Phil 😉
Special mention must also go to Gary Anderson’s incredible walk-on in Glasgow in week 7, when he took on the Hurricane, Kim Huybrechts. It was Gary’s first competitive match in Scotland since being crowned World Champion and the reception he received was nothing short of electric. Stephen Bunting’s ‘Bird is the Word’ walk-on appears a popular choice amongst the darting twitter sphere, although I must confess that whilst I am a huge fan of Stephen, I am less enthusiastic about his walk-on! Having said that, seeing the walk-on girls dressed as Lois Griffin for the first-time was mildly amusing.
Peter Wright’s ‘Don’t Stop the Party’ is another contender, although unfortunately for Snakebite, his party was indeed stopped, and in rather premature fashion, as he was eliminated in week 9 on Judgement Night.
Best Interview: ADRIAN LEWIS vs Phil Taylor Week 12
There were several candidates for this prestigious award. Raymond van Barneveld is a personal favourite of mine; I love the way Raymond regularly refers to himself in the third person and his engagement with the crowd at the culmination of his interview is always great to see. His interview after his controversial win against Gary Anderson also showed a different side to Raymond. The usually amiable and relaxed character was incensed at Anderson’s allegations of ‘unfair play’ and RvB claimed “we will have a chat there- trust me.” Fortunately, the issue now appears to have been resolved.
Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen’s spat after their 6-6 draw in week 5 also made for entertaining viewing. MvG questioned Wright’s sportsmanship and professionalism, before Wright eloquently responded: “Grow up you big-baby.”
However, Adrian Lewis’s interview with Phil Taylor after their 6-6 stalemate in week 12 is the deserved winner. The Stoke pair were joined on stage, as often happens, with Sky Sports’ Wayne Mardle. As Dave Clark asked for Wayne’s opinion on the match, Adrian quipped: “Let’s hear what the four-time participant has to say.” (Wayne is profiled as a four-time PL participant by Sky).
Wayne took it in good spirit however it was a moment of comic genius from Adrian. Then, as Phil was in full flow discussing his ambitions for the remainder of the season, Jackpot interrupted him mid-sentence and discussed his own form. The look on Phil’s face was a picture. The interview can be found below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtY-GyaBXCc (WATCH FROM 33:00 ONWARDS FOR INTERVIEW)
Thanks for reading!