As the 2015 Premier League Darts culminates tonight, I have written a comprehensive review of the tournament so far. Yesterday, I posted Part 1 of my ‘Premier League awards’, so as promised, here is Part 2! Who has been the best finisher; the best player, the most unfortunate, or the unsung hero? Read on to find out!
Here is the link for Part 1! https://joshsdartistry.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/premier-league-2015-awards/
Most Unfortunate: PHIL TAYLOR
Kim Huybrechts would certainly have been my pick for this category on Judgement Night, but Phil Taylor has been particularly unfortunate in this year’s event. For the first time in the competition’s 11-year history, Phil failed to qualify for the play-offs, despite boasting the second highest tournament average of 102.95.
In 16 matches, Phil has posted 12 100+ averages yet he’s not even reached the top 4. It’s absolutely astonishing and testament to the quality of players in this year’s competition. Averages are not the definitive guide to a player’s form, but they do provide a pretty strong indication, which makes Taylor’s league position of 5th all the more surprising.
The fact that Taylor lost to van Barneveld 7-4, despite averaging 115.80 is incomprehensible. The factor separating Taylor from the rest over the last three decades is his ability to win, despite not playing at his best. Nevertheless, in this instance, he lost whilst virtually playing to his best. The only thing lacking in Taylor’s game in this year’s Premier League has been his doubling under pressure; there remains susceptibility on D8 and D16, which ultimately cost him his 17th world title in January. However, he has been punished for every mistake.
Talk of his immediate decline is laughable. Will he ever dominate like he once did? Probably not, but that’s not primarily down to him; it’s because players are constantly improving and the strength in depth continues to grow. Taylor competed in his first Players Championship event of the year in Crawley on Saturday, and won it, beating Gary Anderson 6-4 in the final. Who would bet against him winning his 8th successive World Matchplay title in July? This is only a temporary blip for The Power; write him off at your peril!
Best Player: MICHAEL VAN GERWEN
Michael van Gerwen has now finished top of the Premier League in all of his 3 Premier League campaigns. This is some achievement. Apart from Michael, only Phil Taylor has ever finished top of the league phase. MvG was almost pipped at the post by Dave Chisnall, who enjoyed a tremendous 2015 season; however van Gerwen was the standout performer. He was unbeaten up until week 11, where he was defeated 7-3 by his compatriot and semi-final opponent Raymond van Barneveld. Despite his highly impressive recent averages, Michael’s results have not been particularly impressive. He has only won 2 of his last 6 league games, drawing 1 and losing 3. However, those two victories comprised averages of 112.91 and 116.90, and his lowest average in the last 6 weeks has been 99, so his form is hardly a concern.
Van Gerwen is the complete player. He is a prolific scorer; he has hit 58 180’s, which is only bettered by Chisnall, who has hit 62 maximums. Additionally, van Gerwen has hit 153 scores of 140+. Out of the remaining semi-finalists, Gary Anderson is the next best with 126. In terms of checkout percentage; van Gerwen comfortably holds the best record, with 47.87% on the doubles. Over a total of 16 matches and 172 legs played, that is extremely impressive. His timing is also phenomenal; irrespective of the occasion, he can produce when it matters, which was in evidence when he pinned the 108 checkout to snatch a point against Chisnall last week. Failure to do so would have in probability resulted in Chisnall topping the league, but MvG showed his class to preserve his fantastic league record.
Best Finisher: RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD
I am going to go against the stats for this one. As mentioned previously, van Gerwen boasts a tournament checkout percentage of 47.87%, van Barneveld’s is 41.86%. However, context has played a critical role in my decision. Van Barneveld has been playing in extremely different circumstances to MvG for the last 10 weeks; whilst MvG has been in an unassailable position, Raymond has been fighting to avoid relegation, before then vying for a top 4 spot. Also, in the opening two weeks, Raymond’s checkout percentages were less than 20% on both occasions, so if you factor those out, the margin would be far closer, if not virtually level.
Van Barneveld has won 6 of his last 7 matches and his finishing has been an integral factor in his remarkable revival. Against Taylor in week 7, his doubling under pressure was remarkable; Raymond also finished clinically in beating MvG in week 11. However, his most impressive display of finishing came against Dave Chisnall in Cardiff. The 48-year-old Dutchman was struggling for fluency in the scoring ranks, whereas Chisnall was scoring at a prolific rate; however van Barneveld’s finishing was remarkable.
He hit finishes of 96, 90, 76, 12, 132, 85 and 90 en route to victory. Three of those finishes culminated on the bullseye and it was arguably the best display of finishing in this year’s competition. He will need to produce similarly fine finishing to overcome Michael van Gerwen in tomorrow’s semi-final, but you would be foolish to write him off on current form!
Who Might We Not See Next Year:
KIM HUYBRECHTS, PETER WRIGHT, STEPHEN BUNTING.
I could well be comprehensively wrong, but as it stands, these are the only three participants from this year that I could possibly envisage not being picked. Kim Huybrechts, despite being relegated, acquitted himself very well on debut, but his relegation could prove costly for his hopes of competing next year. Huybrechts has yet to really make his mark on TV; he has produced a number of great individual performances, but has failed to really replicate this over an entire tournament. He is currently ranked outside of the top 16 and if this remains the case by 2016, his place for next year may be in jeopardy.
2014 World finalist Peter Wright was chosen as a Sky Sports wildcard in this year’s Premier League, but his performances were underwhelming which led to his relegation. He was fantastic in reaching the UK Open Final in March, whilst he has also been impressive on the tour. Yet, strangely, he was unable to transfer this to the Premier League stage. Whilst he is very popular with the fans due to his colourful persona and engaging walk-on, he’s defending a lot of money on tour this year, so the pressure is firmly on Snakebite if he wants to participate in his third successive PL campaign.
Stephen Bunting was my underdog pick to succeed in this year’s competition, although he didn’t perform to his best on debut, finishing in 8th place. Nevertheless, he does deserve praise for avoiding relegation despite not producing his best form. He admitted it took a while to acclimatise to the big arenas and I’m sure, like close friend Dave Chisnall, he will be a far more complete player if selected next year. He had a fantastic first year in the PDC, breaking into the World’s top 25 and with no money to defend in 2015; he has the potential of making further strides up the rankings. However, with the likes of Keegan Brown and Michael Smith emerging on to the scene, with Vincent van der Voort and Jelle Klaasen enjoying revivals, failure to re-produce last year’s form may cost the Bullet a wildcard in 2016.
Unsung Hero: GARY ANDERSON
Gary Anderson finished 3rd in this year’s Premier League table yet received very little acclaim, perhaps because people expect so much from him as World Champ. MvG, Chisnall and van Barneveld have received plaudits for very different reasons, but Anderson has gone under the radar somewhat.
This is despite Anderson doing the double over Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis, whilst also inflicting a rare defeat on van Gerwen. However, he hasn’t really gone through any significant peaks or troughs; he has been consistent throughout and barring a minor wobble between week 10 to week 13, his play-off place has been under very little danger.
Anderson boasts a tournament average of 99.83 and finished just 3pts off top spot, despite not producing his very best throughout. His best performances of the campaign came against Adrian Lewis and Michael van Gerwen; he thrashed Lewis 7-1 with a 109 average, before beating van Gerwen 7-5 with a majestic display, after losing 7-1 to Stephen Bunting earlier in the night.
Anderson remains a mercurial talent but he’s a far more consistent and gritty proposition. He faces Dave Chisnall in the semi-finals; Chizzy beat him 7-3 and 7-2 in the league phase, but in a one-off contest, Gary is an extremely dangerous proposition. Will the Flying Scotsman secure his 2nd Premier League title at the O2 on Thursday?