Premier League Darts: We assess which players are shining or struggling ahead of the 2021 season

Jonny Clayton has produced the best darts of his career in the early stages of the 2021 season

This year’s Premier League is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. The original 10-player format has returned, although with a host of established names struggling for form, anything could happen.

Glen Durrant is the reigning Premier League champion following his scintillating debut campaign in 2020, and he’ll be pitting his wits against world champion Gerwyn Price, five-time Premier League winner Michael van Gerwen and two-time champion Gary Anderson.

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Former finalists Peter Wright and Rob Cross will be joined by last year’s runner-up Nathan Aspinall, while the trio of Dimitri Van den Bergh, Jose De Sousa and Jonny Clayton prepare to make their full-time debuts having scooped televised titles over the last 12 months.

As we prepare for another bumper Premier League season, here’s a look at which players are firing on all cylinders, and those who may have cause for concern…

Who’s hot?

Jonny Clayton

Clayton has enjoyed a dream start to the 2021 season

Clayton has enjoyed a dream start to the 2021 season

Clayton may be the lowest-ranked player in this year’s Premier League, but he is unquestionably the most in-form player on planet darts right now.

The Welshman enjoyed a blistering start to 2021; his first individual major triumph at the Masters earned him a Premier League debut, and he’s followed that up by producing a string of electrifying performances on the Pro Tour.

The main criticism levelled at Clayton was his inability to cross the winning line in major events, although his World Cup success with Gerwyn Price in November appears to have had a transformative impact.

There have been ten events held in 2021 thus far – Clayton is the only man to have claimed multiple titles, reaching five finals and prevailing in three of these encounters.

He has registered 23 ton-plus averages during this period and boasts a higher seasonal average than any of his Premier League peers, which augurs well for fans of the Ferret.

Gerwyn Price

Price has failed to make the play-offs in three previous Premier League appearances

Price has failed to make the play-offs in three previous Premier League appearances

Following an underwhelming start to life as world champion, Price underlined his world No 1 credentials with a series of sparkling displays at PDC Super Series 2.

‘The Iceman’ endured an opening Super Series to forget – cut short by an ear infection – which was sandwiched in between semi-final appearances at the Masters and the UK Open.

However, the 36-year-old clinched his first title as world champion with a comprehensive win at Players Championship 6, before he progressed to the final of Players Championship 8 just 48 hours later.

Price is embarking on a fourth consecutive Premier League campaign and while he’s yet to make a play-off appearance, he’s a completely different animal to the man that was eliminated on debut in 2018.

The Welshman has recorded successive fifth-placed finishes since, but given the inconsistency of this year’s field, coupled with his established status as a perennial winner, it would be a major surprise if Price didn’t feature on Finals Night in May.

Who’s not?

Rob Cross

Cross has struggled to recapture the form that helped him secure a brace of major titles in 2019

Cross has struggled to recapture the form that helped him secure a brace of major titles in 2019

Cross is bidding to avoid the unwanted record of suffering elimination for a second consecutive Premier League season, but the statistics suggest he could be embroiled in another battle to beat the drop.

‘Voltage’ was ranked inside the world’s top four when the line-up was announced and was therefore an automatic selection, yet he is the only player in this year’s field without a major title to his name over the last 12 months.

The 2018 world champion has produced glimpses of his brilliant best in recent weeks, averaging 109 in a thumping 6-1 victory over Daryl Gurney at Players Championship 1 in February.

Cross also defeated Premier League counterpart Gary Anderson in that same event to reach the quarter-finals, but he’s failed to advance beyond the last 32 in any of his last eight events since.

His pedigree remains irrefutable, but he has not managed to rectify the glaring technical issues within his game and given the condensed nature of this year’s tournament, a sluggish start could prove irreparable.

Nathan Aspinall

Aspinall slipped outside the world's top ten following an early exit at last month's UK Open

Aspinall slipped outside the world’s top ten following an early exit at last month’s UK Open

Aspinall was riding the crest of a wave 12 months ago, but for the first time since establishing himself among the world’s elite, ‘The Asp’ has a point to prove.

The Stockport star performed magnificently on debut last year, defeating the decorated quartet of Van Gerwen, Price, Wright and Anderson en route to reaching October’s final.

Nevertheless, the 29-year-old has struggled to recapture those heights over recent months, failing to progress beyond the quarter-finals in any of his last seven televised tournaments.

He began 2021 with new darts and renewed optimism which inspired him to back-to-back Pro Tour semi-finals, but he was only able to muster a brace of victories across four days at Super Series 2.

To compound matters, an early exit against Krzysztof Ratajski at last month’s UK Open saw Aspinall relinquish his top 10 status, and while this by no means constitutes a crisis, his recent results will provide cause for concern.

Glen Durrant

Durrant concedes that he's endured a 'downward spiral' since his magnificent Premier League debut

Durrant concedes that he’s endured a ‘downward spiral’ since his magnificent Premier League debut

Durrant created history on debut in 2020. He ended Michael van Gerwen’s league phase dominance to become just the third player in the tournament’s history to top the table, before edging out Aspinall on Finals Night to lift the coveted title.

Despite this, the three-time Lakeside world champion will begin his campaign in Milton Keynes desperately searching for the form that catapulted him to his maiden PDC major title.

Just a week after his Premier League success, Durrant contracted Covid-19 and he has endured a nightmare spell in the ensuing months, suffering opening round exits at the Grand Slam, Players Championship Finals, Masters and the UK Open.

His performances at the Super Series have been equally alarming. His seasonal average places him 89th from 132 players on the Pro Tour circuit, 39 places adrift of Aspinall – the only other Premier League player outside the top 25.

Duzza’s clutch combination finishing was integral to his success last year and he’ll be hoping to draw on that inspiration ahead of his title defence, but he’ll be under no illusions that he must improve, and quickly.

Televised darts returns to Sky Sports with the 2021 Premier League the action gets underway on Monday April 5 with five consecutive nights of action from the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes.

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