AS we build up to the climax of the longest Premier League Darts campaign in its history, let’s take a look at each play-off qualifier in a little detail and then look at the players chances in their respective semi-finals.
Peter Wright (13/8)
Even though Snakebite had a great time accumulating points and performances in Milton Keynes in the rescheduled league phase, he comes into the play-offs as the highest ranked player with question marks against him. It is not a foregone conclusion he will steamroll his way to a first PL title.
Throughout those MK days, he used the same equipment and utilised a stoic attitude, but since then, he has started to tinker with kit again and has not had a period of dominance like he would have hoped, with Michael van Gerwen not being the constant beast we have come to grips with.
Since winning the first of the Autumn Series titles in Niedernhausen in September, he hasn’t looked 100% assured, but knowing Peter as I do, I am sure he is keeping something in reserve. An early exit from the Grand Prix was mightily unexpected, albeit at the hands of a brilliant Ryan Joyce, but his expression of disappointment at the end of that match must be used as motivation to grasp this chance of a crown that should’ve been his three years ago. He will be favourite with a lot of people, including me, but it will not be a cakewalk.
Gary Anderson (11/4)
As the only person in the remaining field who has won this before, twice in fact, Anderson will maybe have the burden of expectation, especially playing someone in the semi-finals that hasn’t tasted this before. Also, as the only player here who didn’t get eliminated in round one of the World Grand Prix, Gary maybe better prepared for success in Coventry.
Like Wright, Gary has tinkered between a few different sets of darts over the summer and autumn but seems to cast aside any doubts with punctuated technique and a raw natural talent that may never be seen again from any player.
Certain players rise to the occasion when needed. Gary fits this bill and the one thing that drives him when playing these days is money. There is a huge pot of gold at the end of this campaign and it would bring him closer to retirement which I know he is looking forward to. If Anderson can solidify his legacy with some of the titles he has missed out on, we may bid adieu to Gary in the next 24 months or so, but only if he cashes in whilst he is still an elite talent.
This is a huge chance to get closer to the slippers and fishing rod, and he knows it.
Nathan Aspinall (3/1)
It has been a terrific year for Nathan Aspinall, and I personally think there is very little pressure on him in these play-offs. Look at the guys he is up against! They all have huge pedigree and will go down as greats of the game, but The Asp is in the infancy of his greatness and could possibly use an under the radar approach on October 15. People expect from Wright, Anderson and table topper Duzza, but if Nathan was beaten in the semis, folk would say that it was probably lack of experience. He has a free hit here.
With that in mind, I know Nathan will put everything and more into this. The large cheque and trophy at the end of the rainbow mean a lot to him, and he wants it not only for himself, but for his kids, his partner, his team and his fans who have stuck by him through everything.
Maybe one of the best under pressure players I have seen in a decade will rise from his position as underdog once more and upset the establishment. It cannot be ruled out, even though he hasn’t won a massive amount of ranking money since lockdown finished, and his ranking stage form hasn’t been at its most potent.
Glen Durrant (7/2)
All credit must go to Duzza for being the banker of the £25,000 bonus, topping the PL table and doing so over some of the finest talents the game has ever created. If he doesn’t do it again, he at least knows the naysayers and critics who said he wouldn’t make it in the PDC are now eating some Parmo-flavoured humble pie.
Besides the Premier League, this season has been a plethora of missed opportunities, and with no titles to his name in 2020, he will feel like the mouse without the cheese. Here, Durrant has a superb chance to become more than a Lakeside legend, and possibly oust Wolfie from his position in the historical rankings of legends, well before he hangs up his darts. That is of course up for debate.
My primary concern is indecision on flight shape. During the MK days of the campaign, Durrant utilised a kite shape which was a fabulous choice and gave him the stability to take the number one spot. Now, after a first round defeat in the World Grand Prix to a destructive Dave Chisnall, he must choose between the pear-shaped flights (which he used against Chizzy) or go back to kites. I haven’t seen this indecisiveness from Glen before, so if he isn’t sure what to use, he has issues. I sincerely hope he knows, because I would love to see him go toe-to-toe with Anderson.
We've covered the outright betting, now let's break down the semi-finals.
Unquestionably a brilliant match between two seasoned professionals who have greatness in their right arm and their blood, but a chasm in PL playoff experience. It is this gap in playoff experience that gives Gary the edge. This isn’t the O2, 10,000 fans won’t be shouting and maybe that does even the playing field a bit, but Gary won’t care one jot about that. He is a man on a mission and has boxes to tick before hanging up the tungsten.
Glen topped the table and is second favourite in his semi-final. Drink that in for a second. However, I agree with the odds on the basis Gary has won this title twice previously and is playing well when needed. He is an urgency-driven darter and this is an urgent situation for him. Odds of 8/11 are correct and bankable.
I want this to be a close match so much, and I feel it will be with a Duzza comeback at the end, just coming up short.
Aspinall at 13/10 for this game is very enticing. They always say the hardest thing about getting this title is actually getting to the finals night, but now he's here, Nathan needs one more good day and he could lift the title. He will not be underestimated by Peter, that is fact, but the odds for a punter definitely favour the underdog.
As for Wright who craves titles for his legacy, this is one that he feels he should already have and this night is about redemption. He will not let anyone stand in his way, and even though both players had no success at the WGP, this straight start format will be a lot easier to get their teeth into, and you cannot back against the World Champion.
The caveat is if Snakebite isn’t using a set of darts that work like in previous winning scenarios, Nathan may be able to exploit that. Wright to win by 2.5 legs is correct for me, but I write that with a degree of trepidation.