2017 World Darts Championships top 10 contenders

The World Darts Championships started last night and it is a darts fans favourite time of year with games to watch every day and the biggest tournament of the year. What’s not to love? Here are my top 10 contenders for this years Sid Waddell Trophy.

1: Michael Van Gerwen. Unstoppable in 2016 playing some of the greatest darts the world has ever seen winning almost every title and putting up the greatest average of all time along the way in the Premier League against Michael Smith. For me it won’t even be close and MVG will win this title without a doubt.

2: Gary Anderson. Aiming to make it a threepeat in the World Championships always puts in his best performances at Alexandra Palace including a demolition of Jelle Klassen in the Semi Finals last year which to this day is one of the best World Championship performances I have ever seen.

3: Phil Taylor. “Never write off Phil Taylor.” It has been said by every darts fan hundreds of times and as much as I want to say he has no chance at winning this year I can’t because he is still the best player of all time and can easily beat Van Gerwen if he puts in his best performances

4: Dave Chisnall. Much improved since finishing last in the Premier League this year runner up in the players championship and semi finalist in the World Grand Prix I expect Chizzy to make at least the quarter finals this year. He has been accused of being a 180 merchant in the past by me but he has improved his finishing a lot and that could take him very far in this tournament.

5: Peter Wright. Always the bridesmaid never the bride. Snakebite has been one of the best players in the world since 2012 but he is yet to win a major event as Taylor, MVG and Anderson have shared almost every trophy since 2012. Overdue would be an understatement but he needs to learn how to hold his nerve in the big matches. My favourite player at the moment so I will be cheering him on over the next 3 weeks.

6: James Wade. Similar story to Peter Wright, arguably the best player to never win a world championship James Wade has been on a downward spiral for a while now being eliminated in round 1 of the Grand Prix and only reaching the last 32 of the Players Championship will he be able to bounce back?

7: Raymond Van Barneveld. Ask any Darts fan who they wanted to win this competition last year and I guarantee at least 80% will say RVB. Playing in the greatest game of darts I ever saw in the last 32 against Michael Van Gerwen last year, and putting on similar heroics in the last 16 against Michael Smith. RVB had a fantastic campaign here last year and hopefully can put on some performances of a similar quality this time round.

8&9: Adrian Lewis and Jelle Klassen. You know how earlier I said James Wade had been on a downward spiral? These two have been out of form for months. Lewis falling to minnows such as Steve West and Ricky Williams. Didn’t make it past the last 32 of the past 2 majors and failed to qualify for the European Championships. The worst year of his career so far however if you were to tell him that on twitter he would somehow twist it and make himself out to be Phil Taylor in his prime. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to see many Jelle Klassen games this year as he has been getting eliminated from TV events too early for me to see anything substantial. After being somewhat embarrassingly defeated by Steve Beaton in the World Matchplay he is not playing to the standard he played at in this tournament last year.

10: Michael Smith. A player who has massively gone down in my estimations since I first saw him play beating MVG in a tour event. This time last year I was telling anyone who would listen to back Michael Smith in this tournament as I was so impressed by him. Smith has been disappointing this year though not reaching any major semi finals. However I will always back him up and say on his day he can beat anyone in the PDC which is why he is my number 10 pick.

Honourable Mention: Ian White. A man who can hit 180s as good as him should not be taken lightly so don’t be surprised if he beats one of the big players in this competition.

 

Winners and losers of the Premier League so far

The Premier League is in full swing and it’s about that time of year where we look at who is performing well and who is performing badly.

Winners

Chelsea: Conte has transformed the Chelsea side back into what they were in 14/15 looking good at the top of the league players such as Hazard and Costa have found form again whereas Victor Moses has had his career reinvigorated finding a lot more playing time this season and looking impressive.

Adam Lallana: Finally looking to be a 25 million pound player as he has found the form of his life for club and country notching up 3 goals and 5 assists in the league his performances have been key for Liverpool’s great start this season.

Theo Walcott: Back at his best. I have always rated Theo Walcott however after his injury he has been harder and harder to defend as a class player, however coming off the back of two lackluster seasons Walcott is back in and amongst the goals and has become one of the first names on Arsenals team sheet every week.

Losers:

Paul Pogba: Such an easy target but you’ve got to say for 89 million he has been a flop to say he is the most expensive player of all time you would want him to be putting in man of the match performances every week but he hasn’t done it once.

Image result for paul pogba looking sad

Spurs’ Physio: What a nightmare this lad must be having. Spurs have been through their injury crisis and it might see their Champions league run ended before it even begins. Losing arguably their 3 most important outfield players in Kane, Alderweireld and Dembele has cost them dearly and I reckon they would be top of the league if not for their injury woes.

Leicester City: What more do you need to say? Worst beginning to a title defence in Premier League history and only 3 points from relegation. Nobody expected a repeat performance from Ranieri’s side this season but we all expected better than this.

Longevity and being a class player are two different things.

So far on this blog I haven’t really delved into my personal football beliefs yet but once I start writing more you will see how opinionated I am on certain topics. This is one topic I feel incredibly passionate about and it is the difference between longevity and world class talent. For many years now I have had to argue my stance on two players more than any others and they are Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, I remember an article in The Telegraph that listed the 100 best premier league players of all time (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2016/01/29/premier-leagues-100-best-players/) and Ryan Giggs ranked number 1 and Paul Scholes ranked number 5 with only, Alan Shearer, Roy Keane and Thierry Henry ahead of him. For me, the inclusion of Keane in this is more ridiculous than the ones of Scholes and Giggs but that’s for another day.

The Telegraph and many fans, mostly Manchester United fans have gotten 2 things confused with each other longevity and talent Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are 2 fantastic servants for Manchester United and nobody can ever dispute that but to call Giggs the best Premier League player ever is beyond a joke. My main grievance with this comes with my view that Scholes and Giggs were never at any point in their careers one of the top 30 best players in the world or even top 50 for that matter even in United’s historic treble-winning season in 1999 there were so many players worldwide more talented than Scholes and Giggs. To have the Telegraph try to tell its readers that Giggs and Scholes are better than players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, and Dennis Bergkamp is ludicrous. As an aside I just re-read through that list and Phil Neville is placed higher than Alexis Sanchez, do you see what I mean when I say longevity is given too much credit there is no way he was ever a better player than Sanchez.

Scholes is often cited as under appreciated and in my opinion, he isn’t he was just never as good as people make him out to be. His career has been overly romanticized to the point where I have had a fan tell me online that Johan Cruyff is the 6th best player of all time behind Pele, Maradonna, Messi, Ronaldo and Paul Scholes. That is obviously an extreme example but it goes to show how over hyped his career has been since he retired. The fact that I constantly have people telling me Scholes was better than Gerrard and Lampard frustrates me to no end Lampard is a man who finished 2nd in the Balon D’or and scored in double figures for 10 seasons in a row as well as appearing in the PFA Team of the year 5 times with Gerrard appearing a record 8 times Paul Scholes only appeared in the team of the year 2 times. I know a lot of you reading this will be thinking that that doesn’t matter and you are partially right Sergio Aguero has never been in the team of the year but has been the best striker in the league for the past 5 years. Although ask yourself this, hypothetically if you Scholes and Gerrard switched clubs would Liverpool have still won the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006? If Gerrard was at United instead of Scholes I firmly believe that they would have won even more than they already did because Gerrard is that much of a game changer whereas Scholes was never that player.

The main argument that every Scholes and Giggs fan brings to the table is trophies and it is undeniable that their careers are the most decorated out of any two players in English football history. “You don’t win that many trophies without being a class player.” People should actually say that you don’t win that many trophies without being around class players. Kleberson is a world cup winner does that make him better than Lionel Messi? Obviously not. Wes Brown has 5 Premier League winners medals does that make him a better defender than Jamie Carragher? No, it doesn’t.

There are so many great players who have had only a few years in the premier league who don’t get the credit as brilliant players like Scholes and Giggs do. We have all had the conversation with our mates; If you had to make the best Premier League team of all time who would be in it? I had this conversation multiple times in my first few weeks at Uni with other Sports Journalism students and a lot of them said Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. In the 2010/2011 season, I watched one of the best debut seasons I have ever seen from a Premier League player from Rafael Van der Vaart, a lot of people forget how good he was during his spell at Spurs and for me he is the leagues most overlooked great player. My point is that I was more impressed by VDV that one season than I had ever been with Scholes in my life. Just because Van Der Vaart wasn’t in the league for as long as Scholes doesn’t mean he isn’t the better player the same applies for Ryan Giggs with Gareth Bale as his counterpart Bale was doing things at Spurs that Giggs couldn’t dream of doing yet if you ask people who the better player out of the two is a lot of them would say Ryan Giggs.

Then comes the argument that annoys me the most out of any in the world the quotes from other players. It isn’t the fact that most of the quotes are made up by twitter pages that annoy me most it’s that fans won’t listen to anyone else’s opinion they will just tell me that Xavi thinks Scholes is the best player ever so he must be right. Cristiano Ronaldo once saw Paul Scholes kick a ball at a tree from 40 yards and tried to do it all day but couldn’t, I’m not sure where this story came from or why people try to tell me that hitting a tree from 40 yards makes you the greatest midfielder the world has ever seen. The quotes from other players are as meaningless as what I have written here, you can be the greatest player in the world but not know a thing about anyone else being a good player. For example last year Eric Cantona, undoubtedly one of the best players from the 1990s was asked. “Who is the best player in the World Eric?” Who did he say? Not Messi or Ronaldo or anyone who could even be considered the 3rd best player in the world he said Javier Pastore was the best player in the world. Similarly, Pele widely regarded as the best player of all time had in my opinion, the worst footballing opinion of all time saying: “Nicky Barmby is up there with Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini and Ronaldo.”

It isn’t the most important topic in the world but I just wanted to get my views on it out there once and for all. The romanticisation of Giggs and Scholes’ career is something that won’t stop and almost everyone will disagree with me. They were by no means bad players but to call them the Leagues best ever is beyond a joke.

Saturday English Football Preview and predictions

If you would have read through my Blog so far you wouldn’t have thought that Football is my favourite sport, but it is. I am probably the most unconventional fan in the world a Fulham Fan from Manchester I know it’s ridiculous isn’t it? Anyway here are my highlighted games for this weekends action, my previews and predictions.

Arsenal Vs Middlesborough

This patch of form is the best I have seen Arsenal play in 4 years since Feb- March 2012. They seem to have finally gotten past all the things that football fans call “Typical Arsenal” and have managed to pick up results where they previously may not have done. As much as I hate this cliche they are showing a lot more character and backbone picking up points against big and small sides for example a couple of years ago I would have put my house on Arsenal blowing a 3-2 lead with 10 men against Swansea with 20 minutes to go.

Boro on the other hand are having a hard time having lost 3 home games on the bounce for the first time since 2009 and have almost equalled the number of goals they conceded at home all of last season in only 8 games. New arrivals haven’t been anywhere near up to standard most notably Alvaro Negredo scoring only 1 goal since he came to the Riverside over the summer.

My prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Middlesbrough

Bournemouth vs Tottenham Hotspur

Could be a tricky one for Spurs in my opinion especially if Danny Rose isn’t fit in time as Toby Aldeweireld will not be available for selection as well. After a frustrating game against West Brom last week and Bournemouth riding a high after Hammering Hull 6-1 there could be an upset waiting to happen.

My Prediction Spurs 1-1 Bournemouth

Burnley vs Everton

Similarly to Arsenal, Everton seem to have shaken off their inability to grind out results as they have been very impressive so far this season picking up a point at the Etihad last weekend with ex-Fulham man Maarten Stekelenburg taking all the plaudits in that one however with no wins in their last 3 has this good start started to fade? I don’t think so and I think Everton will walk away from Turf Moor with all 3 points. However don’t write off Burnley. Ask Evertons Merseyside neighbours and they will tell you Turf Moor is a tough ground to go to as Liverpool were beaten 2-0 earlier this season. Burnley unfortunately are not good enough to get results like that consistently therefore I predict they will lose this one

My prediction Burnley 0-2 Everton

Hull Vs Stoke.

Is there 2 teams in the league that have had seasons that have started more differently? Stoke started poorly and Mark Hughes looked set to lose his job however a recent resurrection led by the so called “Welsh Jesus” Joe Allen has led to them being unbeated in 3 including an impressive point at Old Trafford. Hull on the other hand started out as everyones prediction to finish bottom of the league however they started brilliantly beating the Champions on the opening day and following that up with a win against Swansea and a good performance in a loss against Manchester United. However that has all changed at Hull having shipped in 17 goals in their last 4 Premier League games more goals could be on the menu this weekend.

My prediction Hull 1-3 Stoke

Leicester vs Crystal Palace

Astonishingly after their midweek in against Copenhagen Leicester now have more points in the Champions League than they do in the Premier League. Leicester come into this game with no wins in their last 3 games and the champions are looking back to their old selves after being thumped by United and Chelsea.

Palace are doing much better than I expected at the start of the season sitting in 9th place however they have had quite an easy run so far so I still expect them to falter later on in the season. This game will hopefully see Leicester come good and return to the results they were picking up last season as every football fan in the country wants to see them do well.

My prediction Leicester 2-0 Crystal Palace

Swansea vs Watford

The Swans come into their second game under Bob Bradley looking to pick up their first win since the opening day. I think Swansea could do a job on Watford today as they looked impressive in Bradleys first game even though they lost to Arsenal. To be honest Swansea have one of the weakest squads in the league and Bob Bradley will have a huge job on his hands if he wants to get them to mid table however I’m predicting them to win today against Watford as a new manager often bring a change in form.

Watford got there first clean sheet in 13 games last week against Middlesbrough and that stat could be very telling as the season progresses. With goals coming in different places than you would expect so far for Watford this season with Ettiene Capoue surprisingly leading the charts with 4 goals, you have to question how long can this continue? Ighalo and Deeney scored 28 goals between them last season but have only gotten 4 as a partnership this season with one of those being a penalty. Capoue and Holebas surely will stop scoring soon and if Deeney, Ighalo and new boy Isaac Success don’t find their shooting boots Watford could be in trouble with a very shaky defence that was highlighted in their 2-0 loss to Burnley earlier this season.

West Ham vs Sunderland

Two teams that have been terrible this season with lack of a better word. West Ham were tipped by many as top 4 contenders after Dimitri Payet was one of the best players in the league last year and carried his form on into the Euros. However life at the London Stadium hasn’t started well at all for the Hammers finding themselves in 15th after 8 games with an abysmal -8 goal difference and embarrassingly being knocked out of the Europa League by FC Astra for the second year in a row. Injuries to Ayew and Carroll early on in the season hasn’t helped but that is no excuse for conceding 4 goals to both Watford and West Brom. The return of Aaron Cresswell may improve their defence but Angelo Ogbonna looks like more of a liability every time I watch him.

The good news for West Ham fans is that they are coming up against Sunderland. Their start is one of the worst in football history not just Premier League history picking up 2 points from 8 games. Relying on players who are past it or players who never even had it Sunderland’s squad is weak to say the least with minimal movement in the transfer market in the summer The Black Cats look destined for relegation. But how many times have we all said that in the past 5 years? Sunderland always seem to dig themselves out of these holes but for me this year may be the year they finally go down.

My Prediction West Ham 3-2 Sunderland

Liverpool Vs West Brom

1 year after Jurgen Klopp took charge at Liverpool and their fans are the most optimistic I have seen them in a long time. People questioned the signing of Sadio Mane for £34 million however he has been one of the players of the season so far. Players proving doubters wrong is going on throughout the Liverpool squad, with Henderson, Milner and Mane all being very impressive so far it has everyone asking how far can they go this season? Personally I reckon they will be battling with Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea for the 3rd and 4th place spots. But you never know If Sturridge can hit top form the sky is the limit for this side and with no European obligations Klopp could lead them to some silverware this season.

West Brom are never going to make waves in the League especially under Tony Pulis they will happily be a team that finishes 10-15th every year with the occasional 1-0 win against a big club to keep the fans happy. To be fair to West Brom they do have some good players such as Nacer Chadli and Matt Phillips as well as having quite a strong defence for a lower mid table side. As every Premier League fan knows whenever you come up against a Tony Pulis team it always has the potential to be “One of those days.” Averaging 40% posession so far this season is very telling they don’t need a lot of the ball to cause you problems. As shown by them drawing 1-1 with Spurs last week, if they get a 1-0 lead you are going to struggle to win the game from that point.

My Prediction Liverpool 2-0 West Brom

 

Thistlecrack to make debut over fences.

For me in this past 12 months you would struggle to find a horse better than Thistlecrack over hurdles winning 5/5 in the past 12 months including big wins at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree. He will make a step in his career this Tuesday however running his first ever race over fences at Chepstow. The entire world of Horse Racing will have eyes on Thistlecrack on his first time over fences and I’m sure that a lot of people will have a bet on him whether that be to win or laying him on one of the numerous betting exchanges. Depending on what odds he goes off at. Trainer Colin Tizzard has made it no secret that he want’s his 8 year old thoroughbred to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year which is my favourite race of the year alongside the Grand National of course. It is a testament to Thistlecrack’s ability over fences that he is already 7/1 favourite for the Gold Cup despite never being seen jumping fences however if he can jump well and run the way he does over hurdles you may very well be looking at the next Gold Cup winner. 7/1 for the Gold Cup could be the bet of the century depending on how well he looks after Tuesday as i suspect he will drop to around 3/1 if he wins comfortably on Tuesday and may even go off as an odds on favourite by the time the race comes around depending on the field. If I were to back Thistlecrack on Tuesday though the odds would have to be above even money as I can never bring myself to bet on an unknown quantity however I think he will win easily as trainer Colin Tizzard has said that he jumps fences very well behind closed doors but nobody knows what will happen but by Tuesday afternoon we may have seen the Gold Cup winner.

My top 10 contenders for the 2016 Darts World Grand Prix

My top 10 contenders for the Grand Prix title:

1. Michael Van Gerwen.

Even though I said that this won’t be as clear cut as other competitions in my previous post you still can’t look past Mighty Mike. This year he played the greatest darts match that the world has ever seen beating Michael Smith 7-1 in the premier league on his way to a world record 123.4 3 dart average the likes of which has never been seen before. Looking to bounce back from his Champions League defeat MVG is my pick to win this competition.

2. Phil Taylor

What more can you say? This countries most decorated sportsman 16 time world champion, 11 time winner of this competition. In recent times I have always been against Taylor as I want to see some new blood picking up the trophies, however last weekend I was firmly behind him as he deserved to be the inaugural Champions League winner as he is the undisputed greatest of all time.

3. Gary Anderson.

This man has completely changed his game in the past couple of years having become one of the most prolific double hitters in the game having previously struggled on them. The back to back world champions has a massive chance here and should easily make it to the semi final.

4. James Wade

A two time winner of this competition and for good reason. James Wade is an incredible player at this format as his doubling is better than his scoring so if his opponent stumbles at hitting the double to get started he will punish them heavily.

5. Raymond Van Barneveld

Similarly to Wade, Barney is a fantastic double hitter so if he can consistently get his first dart in he should progress to at least the quarter finals where he should meet The Machine himself in a game that could be a stormer.

6. Peter Wright.

My favourite player doesn’t have the best of chances in this tournament he needs to book up his ideas when it comes to hitting the doubles especially in this format but the draw has been kind to him giving him Brendan Dolan then either Robbie Green or Dave Chisnall. But i predict he will be eliminated in the QF by Phil Taylor.

7. Robert Thornton

Kind of strange to see the defending champion at odds of 66/1 Thornton has been looking forward to defending his crown all year long and I think he will produce his best at this tournament. As he showed in the Premier League when he is at his best he can take legs from anybody after getting a shock 6-6 draw with World number 1 Michael Van Gerwen.

8. Adrian Lewis

Why so low down? To say Lewis’ year has had a downward trajectory would be an understatement after reaching the World Championship final and the Premier League semis I had tipped Lewis to win a major this year. However as of late Lewis has been awful. As much as he will argue that he is doing well with people on twitter the fact of the matter is that he is bang out of form, being beaten in minor tournaments by relative nobodies such  as Steve West and Ricky Williams he seriously needs to improve if he wants to win this tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him eliminated in the first round by Jelle Klaassen.

9. Jelle Klaasen

Impressed me massively at the World Championships but has endured a huge dip in form since. Being beaten by Steve Beaton at the Matchplay being one of the worst performances I have ever seen from Jelle Klaassen would be a huge contender if he gets past Lewis in the first round and regains his form.

10. Joe Cullen

Realistically Joe Cullen is not the 10th most likely player to win this competition it is probably Michael Smith or Dave Chisnall. However I have included Cullen because I have been very impressed with his performances this year including a whitewash of Gary Anderson, beating Stephen Bunting and taking Peter Wright very close. Cullen has a bright future in my opinion and if he can find his best darts this weekend he could reach the Quarter Finals

 

My 2016 Darts World Grand Prix preview and predictions

The World Grand Prix is the PDC event that can produce the biggest shock due to its Double In, Double out format. Meaning that there are so many more contenders for this crown than there is during any other tournament which means that for once this won’t just be contested between Van Gerwen, Taylor and Anderson as most PDC events are. Last year produced a shock winner in Robert Thornton a man who rarely challenges for major trophies with his best ever World Championship finish being the quarter finals in 2015.

However if there is one thing I would say about this tournament is that you can write off the 180 merchants of the darting world players like; Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall and Simon Whitlock who are in my opinion great players in an ordinary format however with the Grand Prix you have to hit a double to start and these boys aren’t the best at consistently hitting doubles. As highlighted by Smith and Chisnall’s disappointing Premier League campaigns with both being eliminated on judgement night despite being incredibly good scorers throughout the competition. These men will struggle as their opponent may already be down to a sub 300 score by the time they get started.

The Grand Prix in previous years has allowed players who usually wouldn’t get a sniff at a major final to progress incredibly far. For example Brendan Dolan who reached the 2011 final has never reached another major final as well as the current champion Robert Thornton who only has a UK Open title to his name.

The player who could be the dark horse this year in my opinion is Joe Cullen a man who I watched beat world champion Gary Anderson 6-0 in the German Darts Masters in a very impressive display is a newcomer to the Grand Prix however his draw has been quite kind to him meeting Simon Whitlock in the first round a player who has been on a decline and doesn’t perform brilliantly in the Grand Prix format then in the second round should he progress he will meet either Alan Norris or Michael Smith two men who are in a similar vein as Whitlock where they don’t play at there best in the format. In the quarter finals if all goes to plan Cullen would meet MVG where he would probably be beaten but do not write him off completely. Personally I believe that Van Gerwen will go on to win the entire tournament however I will fully write up my top 10 contenders in a future blog post.