Premier League Darts- Week 5 Preview

Wright MvG.jpg
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

After Michael van Gerwen’s astonishing world-record televised average last week, the Premier League road-show heads to Exeter, where MvG takes on current table-topper Peter Wright. Snakebite is the only unbeaten man left in this year’s competition, although ‘The Green Machine’ will provide a stern test of Wright’s credentials.

Elsewhere, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis clash in an all-Stoke affair to kick off Thursday’s proceedings, whilst the Scottish duo of Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson lock horns.Dave Chisnall takes on eight-time major winner James Wade, whilst Premier League debutant Michael Smith meets five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld.

Phil Taylor v Adrian Lewis

Taylor and Lewis have both enjoyed fine starts to their 2016 Premier League campaigns, having secured three wins from their opening four matches. Lewis came back from 5-3 down to stun James Wade last week, with ‘The Machine’ spurning nine darts at double to claim a point last week.

Phil Taylor also prevailed courtesy of a 7-5 scoreline in an extraordinary contest against Dave Chisnall. Taylor averaged 115.25 en route to victory, but his performance was somewhat overshadowed by Van Gerwen posting an incredible 123.40 average in the preceding game.

I fully expect this to be a high-quality contest, as both men are in a tremendous vein of form and they aren’t under the pressure of contesting a survival scrap. Lewis’ decision to move from 23g darts to 25g has proven to be inspired, whilst Taylor has posted averages of 111.20 and 115.25 already this season. That illustrates just how well ‘The Power’ is playing.

Unsurprisingly, Taylor dominates their head-to-head record. They have met on 67 occasions; Taylor winning 50, Lewis winning 15, whilst they have shared two draws. They’ve met three times already in 2016, all in UK Open qualifiers. All three matches have ended 6-2, Taylor winning their most recent clash, yet Lewis won the previous two.

Prior to Taylor’s victory over Jackpot a fortnight ago, Lewis had won their last four matches, including wins in the Auckland Masters and the European Championships. Yet, Phil is a different animal at present. His doubling has improved significantly with his new equipment and I’m backing him to claim his fourth successive league win on Thursday.

Prediction: Taylor 7-5 Lewis

Dave Chisnall v James Wade

Dave Chisnall and James Wade both succumbed to narrow 7-5 losses against Taylor and Lewis respectively last week, and both will be wondering quite how they departed Aberdeen empty-handed.

Wade produced fine 120 and 121 finishes to lead Lewis 5-3, before the two-time world champion reeled off three consecutive legs. Yet, Wade then contrived to miss a multitude of opportunities to claim a share of the spoils. Meanwhile, Chisnall averaged 109 against Taylor and missed two darts at D20 for a point in the twelfth and final leg.

Both should be relatively encouraged by their recent performances, yet the loser of this match faces the prospect of being drawn into a relegation dogfight. Wade sits on four points compared to Chisnall’s three, but Wade has played a game more, having doubled up in week two to deputise for an unwell Robert Thornton.

I expect this to be another high-quality affair, but given the potential repercussions of a defeat it could become nervy, particularly in the latter stages of the contest. Wade has suffered three defeats on the bounce so he’ll be desperate to halt his slide, particularly with van Barneveld and Anderson to play in the coming weeks.

The pair have met on 16 occasions, with only five of these games being contested on the TV stage, which is rather surprising given that they regularly reach the latter stages of major tournaments. Chisnall defeated Wade in their most recent TV meeting, prevailing 11-6 in the Unibet Masters semi-final last month.

Chizzy was also unbeaten against Wade in last season’s two Premier League meetings. Their first match was drawn, before the St Helen’s star dismantled the left-hander 7-1 with an imperious display. Whilst Chisnall possesses mercurial tendencies, his dominant scoring power could prove to be decisive against Wade.

Prediction: Chisnall 7-4 Wade 

Robert Thornton v Gary Anderson

Aberdeen proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Scottish duo of Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson, as they picked up their first Premier League points of the season. Gary Anderson secured a mightily impressive 7-3 victory over Raymond van Barneveld, whilst Robert Thornton halted Peter Wright’s 100% record by earning a battling 6-6 draw.

It was never a case of panic stations for Anderson. He was beaten by Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor, and he performed particularly well against MvG. However, last week against Barney, the Flying Scotsman was roared on to victory by a partisan Aberdeen crowd, and I expect this victory to kick-start his title defence.

Robert Thornton was under major pressure to get a result against Peter Wright, and the World Grand-Prix champion duly delivered. Thornton still didn’t perform extremely well, which was reflected by his modest 91 average. Nevertheless, Robert was tenacious and converted his opportunities, apart from missing one match dart in the eleventh leg.

Many people may be surprised to learn that the head-to-head record between the pair is extremely tight. They have contested 26 matches, with Anderson winning 13, Thornton winning 11, whilst there have also been two draws. They have met three times in the Premier League, and ‘The Thorn’ remains unbeaten, winning two and drawing one.

However, I believe Thornton’s unbeaten Premier League record against his compatriot may be halted this week. Anderson’s scoring power is relentless and will be too much for Robert, who is struggling for consistency at present. Providing the world champion doesn’t endure double trouble, I expect him to secure his second league win in succession.

Prediction: Thornton 3-7 Anderson

Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen

Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen will renew their rivalry in Exeter, as 1st takes on 2nd. Peter Wright tops the table, having accumulated seven points from a possible eight.Wright trailed Robert Thornton 6-4 last week, but Snakebite once again demonstrated his resilience to fightback and maintain his unbeaten start.

However, van Gerwen is simply imperious at present. Whilst his 123.40 average usurped the televised average record, MvG would have recorded an astonishing 136 average if it wasn’t for missing three darts at D18 for a 7-0 whitewash. If he produces anything close to that type of performance again, there is only going to be one winner.

Wright’s statistics thus far underline the fact that averages aren’t always decisive. In terms of overall tournament average, Wright is eighth; only Thornton and Smith, who currently occupy the relegation spots; have lower tournament averages. Yet, Peter has exploited profligacy from his opponents to lead the way thus far.

Having said that, there is only so long that you can rely on your opponent misfiring and I cannot see Michael van Gerwen under-performing on Thursday. The world number one has topped the Premier League table for three successive years and he’ll be desperate to reclaim top spot with a victory over Wright.

Wright is yet to beat van Gerwen in a televised major. Van Gerwen defeated Wright in the 2014 World Championship final, whilst over the last twelve months, he has defeated the Scot in the finals of the UK Open and World Series of Darts, whilst also beating him in the World Matchplay and European Championship semi-finals.

MvG retains a significant psychological edge over his opponent and this could be a factor in Exeter. Peter has rode his luck in this year’s competition, but he won’t be afforded any favours by Michael this week. I’m backing Van Gerwen to secure top spot with a comprehensive victory.

Prediction: Wright 3-7 Van Gerwen

Michael Smith v Raymond van Barneveld

The final match of the night sees Michael Smith take on Raymond van Barneveld. Both men suffered defeats last week; Smith losing to a record-breaking Van Gerwen, Van Barneveld succumbing to an inspired Anderson. 

Smith is still searching for his first-ever Premier League victory and he is approaching the crunch. ‘Bully-Boy’ has claimed just the solitary point from five matches, so defeat against Barney essentially confirms his relegation, particularly as he still has to play Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor.

However, there was nothing Smith could have done last week. It was a remarkable display of brilliance from MvG and despite the comprehensive scoreline, I don’t actually think this will have damaged Smith’s confidence. By the same token, Barney averaged 99 in defeat to Anderson last week and will be satisfied with his current form.

The pair have met on ten occasions, with van Barneveld edging the head-to-head 6-4. Three of Smith’s four victories have come on the Pro Tour, whilst five of van Barneveld’s triumphs have come in televised majors, including their dramatic quarter-final clash in the 2016 World Championships. However, Smith did claim his elusive first TV win over Barney in last month’s Unibet Masters.

Smith has incredible natural ability and can blitz anyone in the Premier League field. It’s crucial that the St Helen’s star starts well, but van Barneveld has the crucial experience and his tournament average of 99.58 indicates his consistency at present. I think Smith will perform well, but I’m backing Barney to clinch his third win of the season.

Prediction: Smith 5-7 Van Barneveld

Night Five – March 3
Westpoint Arena,  Exeter

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

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