And so, the 2021 Premier League Darts now comes down to four.
Jonny Clayton took the final qualification place on Thursday night in Milton Keynes. He joins Michael van Gerwen, Jose De Sousa and Nathan Aspinall in bidding to win the most important non-ranking title of them all.
De Sousa, Aspinall and Clayton are looking to lift the trophy for the first time, while MvG looks for a sixth Premier League crown. But, this Premier League could signal a new age in darts, no matter the outcome.
MvG looks for history
If you’d told darts fans after night nine, when he lost to Jonny Clayton with a 91 average, that Michael van Gerwen would finish top of this Premier League, you’d probably have been laughed at.
The fact is though, with six wins in seven games in the second phase, he’s won the league leader’s bonus for the eighth time in nine years. While others have dropped points, and he has see-sawed between the sublime and the shocking, MvG has fought to win matches and reclaim the spot that has largely been his own in the last decade.
And he’s done it without being his brilliant best. Yes, there has been flashes, but nothing like the consistency that we’ve seen from him in years prior. He’s never lost a Premier League Darts semi final, which is a ridiculous feat when you consider he’s been in seven of them. If he does win tonight, he will draw level with Phil Taylor for the most ever Premier League titles won. To do so would represent to The Green Machine he can win tournaments largely with his B game again, something that he’s not done for a while.
It would also signal to the rest of the field that, once again, he’s the man to beat. The age of worry would be over, the confidence would be back, which would be an ominous sign for the rest of the field.
De Sousa looks to cap off memorable Premier League debut
Second place on your debut. Not bad.
Second place, hitting the most 180s in a campaign by a player ever, and being the most entertaining human on planet darts on your debut. Excellent.
Let’s remind ourselves, that Jose De Sousa was the only player in the field that had never played a game on the Premier League stage before the competition began. However, not having those scars of games gone by only seems to have given him more confidence.
He’s hit 81 180s in the league phase, two more than Gary Anderson did in 2011. He could come close to making 100 180s for the tournament if he does make the final tonight. While the miscounting is still a concern in the biggest of matches, last night showed that he’s arguably the man who can entertain the most. The three tops finish in the opening leg against Nathan Aspinall will live long in the memory of great checkouts in this competition.
. . .
The roof has been BLOWN OFF the Marshall Arena as Jose de Sousa produces a sensational 120 checkout with three double tops!
He really is ‘The Special One’ pic.twitter.com/drwoHi2IeQ
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) May 27, 2021
He’s got to a semi final at his first attempt. He’s two games away from being champion, and signifying that the Grand Slam win in November 2020 is not a one off. It would also elevate him into the very top tier of darts players, and he would be a contender for any title in 2021.
Aspinall looks to go one better than 2020
It’s weird to say this about a man who’s finished second, but at the start of this competition, not many would have expected Nathan Aspinall to make the top four.
Early exits at the World Darts Championship and the UK Open, followed by a poor first Super Series, saw The Asp horrendously out of form. In fact, there were some thinking he’d be fighting to avoid relegation.
How wrong they all were. Losing just one game in the opening phase saw him top the table after night nine. While he hasn’t finished there, qualifying for your second straight Play-Offs, is not bad going. Plus, the fans are back, and they are singing his name. Aspinall, more than most, has missed them.
He was not far off defeating Glen Durrant last year in the final either. It took 14 legs for there to be a break of throw, and when Duzza found it, the former UK Open winner could not get going. Now, can he take the opportunity in 2021, and kick start his career after a barren two years or so?
Can Clayton cap off incredible six months?
It went down to the last game, but Jonny Clayton is the fourth player contesting the Play-Offs.
Despite two defeats in the final week, The Ferret fought his way to beat a player in Van den Bergh to the final spot, with The Dream Maker hitting the highest tournament average and the second most 180s in the tournament, yet missing out.
Clayton’s scoring power is up there with the best. A half century of maximums is not too shabby in his first full Premier League campaign, but his doubling is still a concern. He’s hit just 38.4% of them in this tournament, the third worst of all players involved.
However, his record against semi final opponent Michael van Gerwen is pretty good in recent TV tournaments. Let’s not forget that Clayton did beat MvG in the Marshall Arena earlier this year, en route to winning The Masters which got him into the Premier League.
Plus, there is a huge Welsh contingent in Milton Keynes this week. Will they give Clayton the extra energy he might need in the crucial moments? If he does win it, it cap off a remarkable rise for the Welshman, and establish him, at least so far, as the best player on planet darts this year. As has been said time and time again, never underestimate a Ferret.
It will be a night of high drama inside the Marshall Arena. That’s the only thing we’re guaranteed. Will the dominant player in darts over the last decade take home the title he’s made his own once more? Or will one of the three challengers to his crown deliver on Finals Night?
In this writer’s opinion, there’s one answer. The Premier League is normally a simple tournament. Ten players come and throw darts at a board for 16 nights, and at the end of it, Michael van Gerwen wins.
Premier League Darts Finals Night Schedule
Friday 28 May (19.00 BST)
Semi Finals (First to 10 legs)
Michael van Gerwen v Jonny Clayton
Jose De Sousa v Nathan Aspinall
Final (First to 11 legs)
Michael van Gerwen / Jonny Clayton v Jose De Sousa / Nathan Aspinall
How can I follow the 2021 Premier League Darts?
The Premier League will be live on Sky Sports in the UK. You can also watch it outside the UK via the PDC’s broadcast partners, such as RTL or DAZN.
You can also live stream the event. Find out more here.
We’ll have you covered here at Online Darts, with reaction to every game from Milton Keynes. Head over to our YouTube channel and hit subscribe so you don’t miss a video.
We’ll have a live blog for you every day of the tournament, so you don’t miss a moment even if you can’t watch live.
We’ll also produce the Premier League Daily . This round up show will feature reaction, news and debate from every day of the event. It will be available across all good podcast channels the morning after each day’s play.
Plus, we give regular updates on:
Follow all the drama of the Premier League with us here at Online Darts.