The tungsten tossing travelling circus that is Premier League Darts rolls onto Nottingham for week six….and things are starting to get a little serious for those embroiled in the relegation battle heading into Judgement Night in three weeks time.
Robert Thornton is in danger of being cast adrift unless he starts picking up points soon, while Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall, Raymond van Barneveld and even the world champion Gary Anderson all appear vulnerable.
The UK Open took place at the weekend, and while we won’t be giving too much credos to its results given the open draw format, the strong performances of Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Peter Wright have been duly noted.
Let’s take a look at what’s on this week’s Premier League menu:
Michael Smith (15/4) v Gary Anderson (1/2)
This is a case of master versus the apprentice as Anderson – the known benefactor and mentor – takes on his young charge Smith.
There’s something not quite right about the Flying Scotsman at the moment, and his 89.88 average last week (albeit in victory) – backed by an early exit from the UK Open – suggests there’s a sense of vulnerability about the reigning Premier League champion. Having got his first win on the board last week, Smith looks ready to pounce upon that.
’Bully Boy’ has won two of their last three meetings so there’s certainly no starry-eyed respect being paid, and you sense that if Smith can raise his checkout percentage he is capable of seeing off his mentor here. Instead, we’ll be backing the underdog with a +2.5 leg handicap at 8/11.
Dave Chisnall (7/1) v Michael van Gerwen (1/4)
God bless anyone taking on Michael van Gerwen at the moment. The Dutch Destroyer has won his last four Premier League matches – shelling just ten legs and never averaging below 106 in the process – and has added the UK Open and the Masters trophies to his already bulging collection in the last few weeks alone.
Good luck to Dave Chisnall then, who comes into this contest without a win in three outings. A rather tepid performance last time out in defeat to James Wade, compounded by a horrorshow on the doubles, is cause for concern.
Chizzy trails in the head-to-head stakes 23-9 – no shame in that against a force as brutish as MVG – but in matches played since the Grand Prix of 2013 the record reads 15-4 in thee Dutchman’s favour. Three of their four Premier League meetings have ended 7-4, and that’s available at a princely 11/2. But instead, take Van Gerwen with a -2.5 leg handicap at 4/7.
Peter Wright (11/8) v Adrian Lewis (11/8)
It seems an odd thing to say for a bloke who sits comfortably in fourth in the league table, but Arian Lewis has the air of a man skating on thin ice at the moment. He’s only averaged over 100 once in his five matches so far, and while that has been good enough against certain opponents it was cruelly exposed by the rampaging Phil Taylor in Exeter last week.
Indeed, Lewis’ numbers – average of 93, no 180s, 14% on the doubles – are illuminating. The bad news for Jackpot is that here he will run into Peter Wright, who is playing some of the best darts of his career at the moment.
Snakebite has outscored Lewis in this tournament (124 scores of a ton plus to 102) and boasts a better checkout success rate by some 10%. Those numbers tell a story, and at 11/8 happily Wright looks crudely overpriced.
Raymond van Barneveld (6/4) v James Wade (6/5)
Inconsistency is something that RVB fans have just have to come to terms with from their man in recent years, and after looking a million dollars in the opening weeks of this tournament the big Dutchman is now playing like loose change. A 3-7 defeat to Anderson, followed by a 5-7 reverse to Smith in which he averaged 93, will have the Barney Army on red alert.
In stark contrast, James Wade plods on as consistently and as methodically as ever. Bar one bade performance against Smith the Machine has averaged between 97-102 in all four of his outings, and in truth that might be enough against the ailing Barney.
Wade is comprehensively scoring Barney at the moment (161 ton plus scores compared to 139), and so if his doubles are on point then he looks a cinch at 6/5. Take the Draw No Bet cover at 8/11 however.
Robert Thornton (15/2) v Phil Taylor (2/9)
Sorry Thorn fans: it’s impossible to predict anything other than a Phil Taylor win on the evidence we have seen so far.
The Power’s average is some 20 points higher than Thornton’s in this tournament to date, and leads the maximum count by 16-5. There’s just no light at the end of the tunnel for the Scot.
Oddly, the bookies appear to be in a generous mood, offering two nicely-priced bets that are both ripe for the picking. Taylor with a -3.5 leg handicap is 5/6, and that looks value given The Power’s heavy scoring, and he is 11/10 to score the most maximums; that looks unmissable. He is averaging a shade over three 180s per match thus far, with Thornton a mere 1.20.