Premier League Darts- Week 4 Preview

Anderson v Barneveld
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Aberdeen’s GE Oil and Gas Arena hosts week four of the 2016 Premier League and there are some enthralling clashes in prospect. World champion and Premier League holder Gary Anderson makes his return to home soil against five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, a Premier League winner himself back in 2014.

The Scottish duo of Peter Wright and Robert Thornton battle it out, in a clash between top against bottom. Elsewhere, world number one Michael van Gerwen takes on Michael Smith, 16-time world champion Phil Taylor meets last year’s semi-finalist Dave Chisnall, whilst Adrian Lewis and James Wade renew their rivalry in the night’s opener.

Adrian Lewis v James Wade

Both men travel to Scotland on the back of 7-4 defeats in Dublin last week. Wade was beaten by current table-topper Peter Wright, whilst Adrian Lewis succumbed to the brilliance of Michael van Gerwen. Wade was 4-1 ahead against Wright before losing 6 out of the last 7 legs, whilst van Gerwen reeled off four consecutive legs to thwart Jackpot.

However, you feel that this match is more important for James Wade than it is for Adrian Lewis. Both players have four points, although Wade has played a game more, by virtue of his double-header in Newcastle a fortnight ago.

Since beating Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith,’The Machine’ has suffered successive defeats to Phil Taylor and Wright, and he’ll be desperate to halt that run against the two-time world champion. I don’t believe James is a candidate for relegation, although three defeats on the bounce poses legitimate questions about his top four credentials.

Lewis averaged a shade under 100 against van Gerwen last week, but Adrian seems to be benefiting from his recent change of darts. He’s opted to change from 23g to 25g darts, as he claims he feels more in control of his throw, and it’s certainly paying dividends in 2016 thus far.

‘The Machine’ dominates the pair’s overall head-to-head record, winning 26 times to Lewis’ 16, whilst they have also shared 3 draws. Yet, Lewis has won three of their last four meetings, the other being a draw. Lewis’ game is in such good shape at present, and I think he’ll extend his unbeaten run against Wade with a hard-fought victory.

Prediction: Lewis 7-4 Wade

Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld

This could potentially be the match of the night. The atmosphere in Aberdeen will be absolutely electric, as the partisan Scottish crowd welcome home the world champion and their darting hero. Nevertheless, Raymond van Barneveld is also adored by the Scottish fans, so I’m sure he’ll still have a reasonable proportion of support within the arena.

Anderson comes into the contest still searching for his first points and occupying a place in the relegation zone following defeats to Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor. However, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ has played a game less than the majority of the field, having been ruled out of the opening week with a viral infection, so it’s hardly panic stations.

Van Barneveld has enjoyed a strong start to his 11th Premier League campaign. Despite suffering defeat to Wright in week 2, Barney has recorded fine victories over Phil Taylor and Robert Thornton, averaging 103 in both matches. He’s reached the play-off stage in eight of his ten PL campaigns, and a top four spot remains the ambition for RvB in 2016.

Anderson looked slightly rusty against Taylor last week and never fully settled. He produced moments of brilliance, but he was throwing a number of wayward darts into the S1 and S5 beds. However, Gary returned to the winner’s circle by winning UK Open qualifier 4 last weekend, which will give him a much-needed boost.

RvB didn’t enjoy the greatest of weekends, losing to Joe Cullen and Ronny Huybrechts in the opening round on Friday and Saturday. However, Raymond had already done enough to secure a top 32 spot on the UK Open Order of Merit , and his performances were exceedingly better than his results. This won’t impact upon his performance on Thursday.

Van Barneveld notoriously performs against Gary, and the Scot is under greater pressure; he has to contend with the expectancy of his home crowd, whilst also aiming to secure his first points of the campaign. I expect Gary to average over 100, but van Barneveld’s game is in fine shape, and I have a feeling he’ll depart Aberdeen with a positive result.

Prediction: Anderson 6-6 van Barneveld

Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith

What else can you say about Michael van Gerwen? The Green Machine won two of the three UK Open qualifiers over the weekend, taking his tally of titles in 2016 to five, as he aims to better last year’s tally of 18. His response to losing against Wade on the opening night in Leeds has been emphatic, as he has beaten Anderson and Lewis in convincing fashion.

Michael Smith is in a perilous position having accumulated just one point from four games, but after opening his account against Dave Chisnall last week, ‘Bully-Boy’ may play with a sense of freedom against the world number one. Smith still has to face Van Gerwen, Van Barneveld, Thornton, Anderson and Taylor, so survival remains a major ask.

However, there is no expectation on Smith to get a result against van Gerwen, and having contended with a tremendous amount of expectancy within these opening three weeks, he may relish the underdog tag in Aberdeen. The pace of the game could also be a factor. Smith is a rhythm player and the pace of the game will undoubtedly suit him.

Van Gerwen has dominated the pair’s head-to-head record, winning 14 of their 18 meetings; although Smith has beaten him in two European Tour finals. These European Tour events are considered ‘mini-majors’, so Smith can take encouragement from this.

Having said that, MvG has won their last three clashes, which includes a 6-0 drubbing in last Friday’s UK Open qualifier; this could have a significant psychological bearing on Thursday’s clash. I fully expect Van Gerwen to continue his sensational form with another victory, but I think we will witness Smith’s best PL performance to date.

Prediction: Van Gerwen 7-3 Smith

Phil Taylor v Dave Chisnall

Phil Taylor secured back-to-back Premier League victories by virtue of beating Gary Anderson last week, whilst Dave Chisnall managed to snatch a draw against Michael Smith, despite dominating the match for large periods.

Taylor wasn’t at his best last week. He averaged 100.83 which is impressive, although by Phil’s standards; it’s hardly earth-shattering. However, it was a professional performance from ‘The Power’, who looks exceedingly comfortable with his new darts, particularly on the D8/D16 segments; which he is hitting with greater conviction and regularity.

By comparison, it’s been a slightly underwhelming start for Dave Chisnall this year. Dave whitewashed Robert Thornton in week one, although Robert did average a miserly 75.68; the worst average in Premier League history. Since then, missed doubles have seen him lose to Lewis and draw against Smith, leaving him on three points from three matches.

Dare I say it, but defeat for Chisnall in Aberdeen could see him become embroiled in a relegation scrap. On paper, the tougher tests are still to come, so I think this is a really significant week for ‘The Yellow Peril’.

One of the catalysts for Dave’s consistency in last year’s Premier League was his clinical double-hitting, which has evaded him in the last two weeks. He will be confident of dominating Taylor in the scoring department, but I feel this contest may be decided on a moment of brilliance or a key error, and for that reason, I favour Taylor.

Prediction: Taylor 7-4 Chisnall

Peter Wright v Robert Thornton

Robert Thornton is a top-quality player, but he’s going through a difficult patch at present. He was typically tenacious in his 7-5 defeat to Raymond van Barneveld last week, but there was a sizeable gulf in performance between the players, with Van Barneveld averaging 20 points higher than Robert for sustained periods.

Robert also endured a disappointing weekend in Wigan, winning just one match across three days of qualification events. As a consequence, ‘The Thorn’ will enter the UK Open in round-two next Friday. However, the support from a partisan Scottish crowd could be the spark that Thornton requires to revive his fortunes.

In contrast, Peter Wright has endured a dream start to this year’s Premier League. Three games played, three victories; he’s already matched last year’s points total, which saw him relegated after 9 weeks of action. Wright averaged around 105 in beating James Wade last week, after returning to his usual set-up which he deserted against van Barneveld.

Snakebite is throwing with tremendous self-confidence at present and he’s extremely difficult to beat. In his previous two Premier League campaigns, he has failed to reach the play-off stage, although he has a wonderful opportunity to do so this year.

If we’re judging this purely on form, there’s only one winner. However, these are the best ten players in the world; therefore Thornton shouldn’t be dismissed. I think Robert will give a good account of himself, but Wright is unbeaten in his last 7 against his compatriot, winning six of these contests. I can’t justify backing against him here.

Prediction: Wright 7-4 Thornton

Betway Premier League
Night Four – February 25th
GE Oil & Gas Arena, Aberdeen

Adrian Lewis v James Wade
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
Phil Taylor v Dave Chisnall
Peter Wright v Robert Thornton

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