Paul Nicholson previews the season

Premier League Darts 2021: Player-by-player guide to the new season


Former major winner and leading pundit Paul Nicholson brings you his player-by-player verdict ahead of the new Premier League Darts season, which starts on April 5..

***PREVIEW WRITTEN BEFORE GERWYN PRICE WAS REPLACED BY JAMES WADE DUE TO COVID-19 TEST ***

Last year’s Premier League ended up being the 10 best players in the rankings and there was no real quibbling about who should be in it.

But this year there was more debate than ever about the line-up and questions have been raised about the ‘qualification’ process, especially when you think Dave Chisnall was world number six after reaching the World Championship semi-finals and didn’t make it in.

James Wade won the UK Open to climb up to fourth in the rankings but by that point it was too late so he’s not in it either, while Michael Smith at world number eight failed to make it as well. It’s an unwritten rule that if you win the biggest majors you end up in the Premier League because in the past previous winners have been in the top 10 anyway.

Most players would agree Jose de Sousa did more in 2020 than most, including Dimitri Van den Bergh, whose form has been erratic. But by winning the World Matchplay and then having a deep run in the Grand Slam which moved him into the Worlds top 1, his place can’t be disputed.

Click on the image for our night one preview and predictions

There will be questions raised about whether this is the strongest possible field in world darts, but it is definitely an interesting field given the wide range of nationalities and three debutants in Van den Bergh, de Sousa and Clayton.

I’d say there are doubts hanging over every player in the field for different reasons that we’ll go into shortly and we don’t really have any guarantees about how any of them will play – apart from Clayton, the world number 17!

On the flip side this makes it one of the most wide open Premier Leagues in history and you wouldn’t really be that shocked if any of them win it.

Michael van Gerwen

  • Title odds: 9/4
  • Top-four odds: 1/4
  • Relegation odds: 66/1
  • Appearances: 8
  • Previous best: Winner (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

Michael van Gerwen may well be favourite for the title but this is the first time people have questioned whether he’ll make the play-offs before the season has started.

When he eventually failed to do so last year it was seen as a huge, huge upset considering he always finishes top of the regular season standings, whereas the possibility of the same outcome this year seems a lot more believable.

MVG didn’t play poorly at the first Super Series or at the UK Open – he was simply beaten by good players playing brilliantly. It happens in sport.

What puzzles me most about Michael is that he opted to miss Super Series 2 and take a holiday, which could be catastrophic considering how little ranking action there’s been this season. I really think he’s made an error here and instead he should have gone to those last four Players Championship events to get sharp and boost his confidence, then have a mini break before the Premier League.

It’s been a long break since the UK Open and I think he needs to work harder at the moment, not work less. He hasn’t gone this far into a calendar year without winning a title since 2012.

I have no doubts he’ll be ready from a practice point of view, but there’s no substitute for match practice.

Gerwyn Price

  • Title odds: 5/2
  • Top-four odds: 4/11
  • Relegation odds: 50/1
  • Appearances: 3
  • Previous best: 5th (2019, 2020)

Even the world champion and world number one has some doubt over him considering his track record in the Premier League, and he’ll be under scrutiny and pressure from the very first dart.

He’s still yet to reach the play-offs in his three previous attempts so he’ll need to get off to a good start, which won’t be easy against Gary Anderson.

We all know he wants this tournament more than most – as soon as he won the world title he mentioned the Premier League as his number one target so expect him to look super motivated and fired up.

In the past I would have said he’d prioritise the World Matchplay over the Premier League but I think the latter is now at the top due to the prize fund and the prestige.

Peter Wright

  • Title odds: 6/1
  • Top-four odds: 8/13
  • Relegation odds: 33/1
  • Appearances: 7
  • Previous best: Runner-up (2017)

I think we’ll get the obligatory equipment roller-coaster with Peter this season, but that’s the only guarantee.

He did look terrific in the most recent Players Championship event when only one player even got close to him and that was Steve West. His tournament average of 102.9 was the sixth highest for a Players Championship winner since the start of 2018.

There’s a lot of focus on other people in this line-up and you sense Peter has an opportunity to fly under the radar a little bit in the early stages and work himself into serious contention.

As much as he misses entertaining the fans, I think this format plays into his wheelhouse more than most, like last year when he hit a nine-darter and produced a string of spectacular displays en route to making the play-offs. I would not be shocked to see him top after the first week.

That said, there is the spectre of inconsistency surrounding him. When he gets it right – such as at last year’s European Championship when nobody got near him – he gets it so right. He can be on a different planet. Then on other occasions such as the Players Championship Finals, he averages in the 80s and suffers a shock exit.

If he can get his B game back to 97-98 then he could well lift the trophy for the first time.

A lot of this comes down to how comfortable he feels with his equipment or how motivated he feels when he wakes up. It’s easy to assume these players are always motivated but they’re not – sometimes, like all humans, you will feel flat.

Gary Anderson

  • Title odds: 10/1
  • Top-four odds: 11/8
  • Relegation odds: 11/2
  • Appearances: 9
  • Previous best: Winner (2011, 2015)

I think there might be a lot of people who fancy Gary at 10/1 and even Phil Taylor has said he just needs to find an extra 2% to get back to his best.

If he genuinely wants a third Premier League title in his heart then there’s no reason why he can’t put in the work to get it done. But is he at the stage of his life where he’s just pleased to be in the field?

If this was the traditional format of being on the road every week then I’m not sure he’d have the hunger for it but the fact is, he’s still in the top eight in the world without practicing like he used to! That’s how gifted and talented he is.

He’s had all sorts of issues with injury and his equipment in recent times so to still see him producing the kind of standard that he does is frightening. I don’t think he puts himself under the same pressure as some of the other players and that’s what makes him dangerous. He can put defeats behind him a lot easier than others.

Jonny Clayton

  • Title odds: 10/1
  • Top-four odds: 6/5
  • Relegation odds: 12/1
  • Appearances: Debut
  • Previous best: N/A

I’d love to see Jonny Clayton win this and it would also be hilarious. That would mean the world number 17 would have £300,000 of unranked money in his pocket since the start of 2021 and still be way off the top 10! It would start the most ridiculous debate about what events should be ranked or not.

The same happened when Raymond van Barneveld won the Grand Slam of Darts when it wasn’t a ranked event.

There’s a lot of people who think Jonny will do well in this, even though he told Dan Dawson ‘don’t be daft’ when he got asked about being the best player in the world right now following his second Players Championship title of the season at the last Super Series.

The fact he’s not carried away and how he takes each match at a time will really stand him in good stead to adapt to his debut season.

After many seasons of being a good tour player who’d occasionally throw in ridiculous averages, he was thrust into the limelight during Wales’ World Cup win – where he played to an almost equal level to Gerwyn Price - and I really think that helped him find the next level and give him the belief to be a major champion.

He has become a different animal since then.

Dimitri Van den Bergh

  • Title odds: 12/1
  • Top-four odds: 2/1
  • Relegation odds: 3/1
  • Appearances: Debut
  • Previous best: N/A

Dimitri Van den Bergh was lucky just to get into the World Matchplay so winning it was a huge, albeit well-deserved surprise – but he did back it up with an encouraging Grand Slam of Darts and looked pretty good at the World Championship before he ran into Dave Chisnall.

However, since then it’s not gone so well. He’s still wearing a knee brace and when you see him in the floor events, he’s been inconsistent. We are left scratching our heads with his form more than we marvel at his brilliance right now.

Starting against Michael van Gerwen on his debut is actually ideal because we know he’s more motivated on the TV stages and you don’t get a much bigger fixture than this.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win but on the flip side it wouldn’t be a shock to see him absolutely drilled. That’s where we are with Dimitri.

Jose de Sousa

  • Title odds: 18/1
  • Top-four odds: 2/1
  • Relegation odds: 4/1
  • Appearances: Debut
  • Previous best: N/A

Jose de Sousa may not have won a title yet but he has played brilliantly so far this year and when he does lose, it tends to be against proper performances.

Therefore I think he could be a good bet to go far in this tournament even though it’s his debut. He looks fresh, energetic and happy.

Some may argue his Premier League spot is a bit premature but not only did he win the Grand Slam of Darts, but he also thrashed Michael van Gerwen in a European Tour event final – not to mention his other big performances on tour.

When you tick those three boxes you deserve a spot in this field – especially when selection isn’t done solely on the rankings - and I’m excited to see what he can bring to the Premier League.

De Sousa is so watchable compared to many other players on the circuit and he’s such a lovely guy. He’d be a huge hit with the fans if they were able to attend!

Nathan Aspinall

  • Title odds: 18/1
  • Top-four odds: 3/1
  • Relegation odds: 6/4
  • Appearances: 1
  • Previous best: Runner-up (2020)

Nathan Aspinall isn’t in the best of form but it’s largely forgotten he made a couple of semi-finals towards the very start of the season.

Since then he’s not played his best although he averaged 107 in one game and lost!

He’s expected to beat Glen Durrant in a repeat of last year’s final purely because of the poor run of form Duzza is in so there will be pressure on him. He could have probably done with playing Gerwyn Price first up to fire him up.

Glen Durrant

  • Title odds: 20/1
  • Top-four odds: 4/1
  • Relegation odds: 8/15
  • Appearances: 1
  • Previous best: Winner (2020)

Glen will probably look back on his 2020 with mixed emotions because although he won his first major PDC tournament, it could have been so much better.

He had the World Matchplay in the palm of his hand but let it slip, and I think that’s what makes his response to win the Premier League so much more impressive, even though the actual Finals night was a disappointment for quality.

We’d been so used to Glen being a buoyant bright balloon in the world of darts for several years – on and off the oche – so it’s such a shame to see him gradually deflate ever since he suffered with Covid, as well as the knock-on effects to his game and confidence.

It’s like his balloon is almost empty now so he really needs to build himself up gradually and not expect a drastic change in fortunes overnight.

However, the only way up comes from winning, and playing against this group of players when you’re down is not simple. That’s why I fear for him.

There’s nowhere to hide, especially in this format of one game a day, and if he gets off to a bad start he may not recover.

He’s come through many mental battles and anguish in the past but this is his biggest to date and we’re about to find out if he’s up for it.

Rob Cross

  • Title odds: 33/1
  • Top-four odds: 7/2
  • Relegation odds: 1/1
  • Appearances: 3
  • Previous best: Runner-up (2019)

I think Rob is very close to being where he needs to be to challenge for titles again. I backed him for the UK Open and although I got egg on my face for that one, I’m still sticking by him and expect good performances.

I’m not sure if that will be good enough to get him in the play-offs but I don’t think he’ll get relegated despite the bookies making him among the favourites for that.

He’ll cause problems for people and don’t forget about the fact he loves being the underdog, as we saw during his World Championship and World Matchplay winning runs.

I see signs in Rob’s game this season that I wasn’t seeing 12 months ago such as his improved technique and stability in his darts before he throws.

He’ll fancy it and there’s a lot more pressure on other players.

The fixture list hasn’t been too kind to him, with his first five fixtures being against those in form or with much stronger title claims than him (De Sousa, Price, van Gerwen, Clayton & Wright) but if he can emerge with four or five points from that run then his confident levels will start to soar. If I offered him six points then my arm would be detached!

Top four and title prediction

It’s the hardest possible question to be asked right now but my top four are Peter Wright, Jonny Clayton, Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price.

And as for the champion, I’m going for Peter Wright – but you can make a case for most of his rivals!

Premier League Darts 2021: Dates, fixtures & venues

Night 1, April 5
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Nathan Aspinall v Glen Durrant
  • Rob Cross v Jose de Sousa
  • Peter Wright v Jonny Clayton
  • Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson
  • Michael van Gerwen v Dimitri Van den Bergh

Night 2, April 6
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Gary Anderson v Jose de Sousa
  • Jonny Clayton v Glen Durrant
  • Dimitri Van den Bergh v Nathan Aspinall
  • Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
  • Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross

Night 3, April 7
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen
  • Glen Durrant v Dimitri Van den Bergh
  • Peter Wright v Gary Anderson
  • Nathan Aspinall v Gerwyn Price
  • Jose de Sousa v Jonny Clayton

Night 4, April 8
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Dimitri Van den Bergh v Peter Wright
  • Jonny Clayton v Rob Cross
  • Jose de Sousa v Nathan Aspinall
  • Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen
  • Gary Anderson v Glen Durrant

Night 5, April 9
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Gary Anderson v Jonny Clayton
  • Peter Wright v Rob Cross
  • Michael van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall
  • Gerwyn Price v Glen Durrant
  • Dimitri Van den Bergh v Jose de Sousa

Night 6, April 19
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Rob Cross v Gary Anderson
  • Jose de Sousa v Gerwyn Price
  • Jonny Clayton v Dimitri Van den Bergh
  • Glen Durrant v Michael van Gerwen
  • Nathan Aspinall v Peter Wright

Night 7, April 20
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Glen Durrant v Jose de Sousa
  • Rob Cross v Dimitri Van den Bergh
  • Nathan Aspinall v Jonny Clayton
  • Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price
  • Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson

Night 8, April 21
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Rob Cross v Nathan Aspinall
  • Gary Anderson v Dimitri Van den Bergh
  • Michael van Gerwen v Jose de Sousa
  • Gerwyn Price v Jonny Clayton
  • Peter Wright v Glen Durrant

Judgement Night, April 22
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Jonny Clayton v Michael van Gerwen
  • Glen Durrant v Rob Cross
  • Jose de Sousa v Peter Wright
  • Nathan Aspinall v Gary Anderson
  • Dimitri Van den Bergh v Gerwyn Price

Night 10, May 5
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Night 11, May 6
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Night 12, May 7
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Night 13, May 24
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Night 14, May 25
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Night 15, May 26
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Night 16, May 27
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Play-Offs Night, May 28
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)
Semi-Finals (Best of 19 legs)
Finals (Best of 21 legs)

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