Premier League Darts 2014: Wayne Mardle rates the 10 contenders
Last Updated: 05/02/14 12:10pm
Wayne Mardle previews the new season of Premier League darts.
A new season of Premier League darts starts on Thursday night with 10 of the world's top players battling it out for glory over the next 16 weeks. Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle knows what this event is all about and has rated this year's contenders for us...
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN
I think Michael van Gerwen has the ability and the brain to take over from Phil Taylor, but I'm not quite sure it's right now. Yes, he's the world number one and world champ but Taylor is still the dominant one and what Michael has to do is carry on doing what he's doing for another 10 or 15 years. That's easier said than done, but he's got the game and if he can pull off half of what Taylor has done then he'll be a rip-roaring success. He is playing beautifully well. He will be the one to beat in this Premier League.
Mardle's call: Winner
I think Phil Taylor has got a point to prove, I really do. He's not world number one any more, he's not the world champion any more and he doesn't hold the Premier League title any more. I think he's got a lot to prove. The only way to do that is to go up there and play the darts we know he can. He's changed his equipment and whether that works for him or not remains to be seen. One thing's for sure, it's going to take time. I'm not expecting to see the best of Phil Taylor right now, but maybe in three, four or five weeks we will see that.
Mardle's call: Runner-up
Adrian Lewis isn't the most consistent player on the planet, but he's definitely one of the best. If he plays to anywhere near his A-Game for two out of three weeks then he will qualify for the play-offs. What he has to do is put games to bed. A couple of times last year he was playing well, but went off the boil and ended up drawing or losing those matches. Is his consistency stopping him form winning more world titles? He's already won two and I think it's just a matter of time before he wins more. The first six months of last year were not very good, but in the last six months he has been playing fantastic.
Mardle's call: Semi-finals
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD
Raymond is a quality player and always will be. He has been since the early 1990's and we are talking about 20-odd years at the top. The only player that has ever matched that is Phil Taylor. You just think with Raymond that there's always something waiting to happen. He went missing for a couple of years, but then won the Grand Slam and I think he's capable of going a long, long way and I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on and wins it. He always plays well, but somehow finds a way to lose! I don't know what it is because it's not his ability, but if you get him in a tight situation he loses the games he used to win. Something has got to give. I think he's got something to offer.
Mardle's call: Semi-finals
Simon Whitlock is capable of winning anything. He's capable of winning the Premier League or the World Championship - he's been beaten in those two finals - but I just don't think personally he's as good as he was two or three years ago. He is a brilliant scorer now, but we used to say that about his finishing. Sometimes a horse or a greyhound can change their way of running and I think that's happened with Whitlock. I just think he needs one or two games constantly - one after the other - to get that confidence back. If he can do that then of course he can win it.
Mardle's call: Fifth
Robert Thornton was a sheer success in the Premier League last year. He had the two highest averages of 109 and when you consider how many good players are in it, that is incredible. But he didn't capitalise on those wins; he beat Phil Taylor but then lost to Wes Newton and that's not good enough. One good result and then one bad puts you back on a level footing with everyone else. I'm expecting better things than he produced last year. He has been playing average and that's why I think he's got to improve on last year's performance, not just in the Premier League but in general. He's got more to offer.
Mardle's call: Sixth
Peter Wright has been playing brilliantly for 18 months, so him reaching the World Championship Final was not a surprise to some. He's a consistent thrower and he likes the limelight. Off the stage he is a quiet human being, but on stage he turns into a darting animal that loves to show off. The crowds will suit him and the Premier League will suit him, but being his debut year I'm not expecting great things because it is so tough. Can he reach the play-offs? I'm not too sure, but he certainly has the ability. He will cause upsets, but I don't think he will follow it through and win it.
Mardle's call: Seventh
Wes Newton is one of those who is still sort-of underestimated and I think he will improve on last year. Newton has settled down and now knows that he is within the top echelon of world darts. It might have come a bit too soon for him last year, but I think he's got a bit more to offer and if he can settle down quickly I'm not saying he can win but he can give a better account of himself than he did last year. He has been consistent, he has not won as much as he should and he has hit nine darters on tour and on TV in the UK Open. He's been playing well and will be tough to beat.
Mardle's call: Eighth
Gary Anderson, in my opinion, is not as fluent as he was three years ago. He was then unfazed by things and didn't really care whether he won or lost. It seems a funny thing to say, but that's a great attitude because he isn't afraid to lose - or at least he wasn't. Now he's afraid of getting beat and when you play with fear like that you tend to tighten up - and that's what Gary does. I think he will play better than he has done in the last two years when he finished bottom.
Mardle's call: Ninth and relegated
Dave Chisnall has the game and ability to cause a shock, but I don't know whether he has the mind-set. I'm not sure he can play so well for so long, which is what the Premier League is all about. It's all very well qualifying for the play-offs, which is tough in itself, but to go on and win takes a certain human being and I'm not sure Dave Chsinall right now has the mind-set of a champion. He has been playing great this year, but in the last two or three months has gone off the boil since he lost the Grand Prix final to Phil Taylor. His confidence took a knock then.
Mardle's call: Tenth and relegated
Premier League Darts 2014 kicks off live from Liverpool - including Phil Taylor v Michael van Gerwen - from 7pm, Thursday, Sky Sports 1