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2017 PDC World Darts Championship - Preview

2017-01-02 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2016-12-08 14:21:13)

It’s the high point of the Darting season, a marathon two and a half weeks of action featuring the best players in the sport, along with various regional qualifiers who get the chance to take to the biggest stage in the game…and then go home to watch the good players fighting it out.

Inevitably Michael Van Gerwen starts as favourite. He has won twenty five titles this season and he is looking at winning six in a row. He has collected over £1.6 million in prize money, has won his last twenty three matches and is the undisputed world number one. However, he hasn’t won the ‘big one’ since 2014 with the title going to Scotland’s Gary Anderson for the last two years.

It’s just so hard to see past the Dutch master given his super-hot recent form. There is nobody in the same league as Van Gerwen but ….does he want this too much? This is the missing piece of the jigsaw and he wants the title back, so the pressure will be greater than in the ‘run of the mill’ events that he has been winning so often.

Maybe he wants it too much or maybe the sets format doesn’t suit him so well but whatever it is he was knocked out in the third round last year by Van Barneveld in what has been described as the greatest ever world championship match. He nearly didn’t even get past the first round after an unimpressive 3-2 win over Rene Eidams which required a tie break. In the last five years he has won once, been runner up once, lost one semi-final and departed at the third round stage twice. Ok he is in magnificent form but his event record doesn’t justify best odds of just 3/4.

Van Gerwen knows there are two or three players who can beat him if they are at their very best. Anderson is one; Taylor is another….and Van Barneveld, who knocked him out last year, the other. The other players are pretty much beaten before they take to the stage to face the phenomenon that is Van Gerwen.

Anderson is the 13/2 second favourite and he has a habit of getting up for the biggest titles and this is the biggest. The worry this year is that he has taken the plunge and decided that due to failing eyesight, that he will play wearing spectacles. He only started doing this a few weeks ago and a change like that can take some time to get used too. He says he is happy with the change but the results have not been great. He hasn’t won a title since a PDPA Players Championship event in Barnsley in early August. He remains without a win since wearing his glasses. He has however reverted to his old set of darts which may have been a charge too far.

He was knocked out of the Players Championship in just the second round by Ron Meulenkamp a couple of weeks ago, lost the semi-final of the Grand Slam of Darts to James Wade, lost in the first round of the World Series and lost in the first round of the European Championship. In terms of current form, he is a mile away from MVG. His event form is of course excellent. The last five years have produced two titles, two quarter finals and one third round defeat so he certainly likes the venue and more so the format of playing sets rather than the more usual legs scoring format.

In his favour is a good draw. The 3rd quarter holds little opposition that will frighten Anderson. Chisnall? No. Last year’s surprise semi-finalist Jelle Klassen? Unlikely. No, Anderson’s biggest threat to reaching the semi-finals is himself.

Phil Taylor is the 10/1 third favourite, odds based on his historic event record of 14 PDC World Championships. His last win was in 2013 however and despite his ability to keep coming back, time waits for no man and his best days are behind him. Occasionally he gets it all together and plays to his best but that’s becoming less and less often. He did it in the Champions League of Darts at the end of September and if he can hit that sort of form then he could bag another title but his most recent form has been good…but not great. Losing his quarter final in the Grand Slam of Darts was his second big match loss to Peter Wright, the semi-final of the World Series in November was the other. Taylor las lost matches to Steve West, Mensur Suljovic, Peter Wright and Darren Webster in the last couple of months. There are just too many good players out there now and an increasing number of them how have beaten Taylor and believe that they can again. At 10/1 he will have his supporters but he has failed to get past the third round in three of the last five years so I will look elsewhere for someone who might cause a shock.

Peter Wright is a 12/1 shot and he deserves it based on his consistent level of form this season. Sadly for Wright this good run of form has not resulted in his first televised tournament win. It remains a monkey on his back and this is not the easiest one to win. He did make the final in 2014, losing to MVG in the final. It might just be that all the big match defeats will take its toll. Getting so close…before getting beaten in semi-finals or finals must get to him. Since October he has lost three semi-finals and a final. Close….but still no cigar. In the last three years he has made the final once and the quarter final twice so his event form is as good as his recent form but ultimately success has eluded him.

Wright has a good draw in the 4th quarter with only James Wade looking like a possible obstacle to another semi-final. Wade has a winning H2H record over colourfully coiffured Scotsman but its Wright who has won their last three matches. However 6/5 about Wright winning four games to reach the semi-final does seem very short.

33/1 shot Dave Chisnall is another player not to have won a televised tournament and his recent form has been inconsistent. He lost to MVG in the final of the recent Players Championship but was destroyed 11-3. He went out in the group stage of the Grand Slam of Darts after losing to James Wilson and Jamie Hughes. He has a bit of a thrutchy throw with a big shoulder yip when the pressure is on and it will be on right from the start in this event. He hasn’t got beyond the third round at Ally Pally and it would be something of a surprise if he did so this year.

Two times PDC World Champion Adrian Lewis is an eye-catching 40/1 ……longer odds than Chizzy which seems a bit crazy. However he has lost six of his last ten matches and has been going out of the big events early on. His event form is excellent with two wins; a runner ups spot, a semi-final, a quarter final and a third round loss from the last six. If he gets inspired by his positive mental association with the venue that 40/1 could be massive but his recent form inspires no confidence.

James Wade is another 40/1 shot but he is another nearly man when it comes to the World Championships, a three time semi-final loser and that’s the problem with Wade these days….he finds winning tournaments impossible. He made the final of the Grand Slam of Darts last month but was never in contention vs. MVG, losing 16-8. He hasn’t won a televised event in over two years and is one of those players that sees MVG in front of him and gives up.

Raymond Van Barneveld, 2007 PDC champion, famously knocked Van Gerwen out of this last year before losing a semi-final to Adrian Lewis. That was his third semi-final at Ally Pally in the last four years so he is happy enough with the venue. More importantly is that he is on a bit of a comeback trail, rededicating himself to the game and is determined to get back into the top 6 in the rankings, to play in more tournaments and so far the results have been promising.

In his last four televised events he has made two quarter finals and a semi, has scored very well but lost out to Gary Anderson twice and MVG once. There is no great shame in losing to the world’s number one and two and he knows he can beat the very best when he is at the top of his form. In his last ten matches his checkout % has averaged 54% and his three dart average was 99.80 so he will give anyone a game in that sort of form.

His draw has been reasonably unkind to him, avoiding MVG and Anderson is good, but he is likely to face Lewis in the third round and Taylor in the quarter final. That’s pretty tough but the way he is playing he can beat both those players and reach his fourth semi-final in five years. Taylor is a bit of a nemesis for Barney having only won 22% of his match’s vs the former champion……but on recent form I would expect a very close game between the two.

2 points Raymond Van Barneveld to win the 2nd quarter @ 6/1 with William Hill

For the overall winner it’s very hard to see past MVG but this is an event he hasn’t dominated…yet. Barney beat him last year, Anderson in 2015 and Taylor in 2013 and while he is playing better than ever this year he is not bombproof on the biggest stage. To be the 3/4 favourite to win the title is just too short. Anderson makes some appeal at 13/2, he is the double defending champion after all but his recent form and the switch to wearing glasses are two big concerns. Taylor also lacks his old consistency and is no longer seen as unbeatable by his peers. Peter Wright fails when it comes to closing the deal and he needs to be winning more tournaments to justify 12/1.

Which leaves Barney. A past champion with one of the very best throws in the game. His recent form is cause for encouragement as his desire to play again. His diabetes looked to have really hurt him in the last couple of years and he was getting visibly tried in long matches under the lights but he works more on his diet and fitness now and if he can just play his darts, not beat himself up when he throws a few poor ones then he can give anyone a hard time. His game vs Anderson in the Grand Slam of Darts saw him lose 13-16 but it was nip and tuck right up to the final three legs when Anderson managed to hit a phenomenal hot streak to steal the match. Barney should fear no one and on current form he’s about the 4th or 5th best player out there and 40/1 is a decent price which can be traded out later if he goes deep into the competition as he has in three of the last four. He’s not finished yet.

0.5 point Raymond Van Barneveld to win the Championship @ 40/1 with Coral, Skybet, Betfair sportsbook, Unibet

We will be offering extensive coverage of this year’s championship with the next update posted next Thursday for the opening nights matches.

-JamesPunt