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Premier League Darts: Wayne Mardle on Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith, Chris Dobey and the rest of the line-up

Dart's biggest party is back in 2023 as the Premier League roadshow heads to a venue near you! The SSE Arena in Belfast hosts the first of 17 individual events from Thursday, February 2 with the Play-Offs returning to the O2 Arena in London on Thursday, May 25

Michael van Gerwen at the Grand Slam of Darts
Image: Will it be more Premier League glory for Michael van Gerwen or can he be stopped?

Will Michael van Gerwen land a record-breaking seventh Premier League crown? How will the rest of the chasing pack get on? Does 'Hollywood' Chris Dobey deserve his spot? Wayne Mardle answers all the key questions.

There's only one place to start and that's who Wayne thinks will win this year's event, which will come to its climax at London's O2 Arena on May 25.

Will it be seventh heaven for Dutch ace Van Gerwen or will he be challenged by one of the seven other players?

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Watch every nine-darter that has been hit in the Premier League

Will it be between the top four players for the title?

Michael van Gerwen at the World Darts Championship
Image: MVG will start as favourite to win the Premier League for a seventh time

I don't think so. Jonny Clayton comes in as a debutant, and one of the outsiders, and wins it. Joe Cullen nearly wins it. Nathan Aspinall has made the final, as did Jose de Sousa and they're all relative outsiders.

With the format the way it is now, each and every player won a night at the Premier League last year. I think it's whoever turns up on the night.

Yes, Van Gerwen is going to start favourite because he's still the best player in the world, in my opinion.

Price has never done himself justice in the league as yet, while Peter Wright has never actually gone on to win it, while Michael Smith has been runner-up.

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All I know is that there will be some darting drama!

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Take a look back at one of the most dramatic finals ever played in the tournament as Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright met at the O2 Arena in 2017

Who is your favourite to win this year's Premier League?

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Michael van Gerwen edged out Joe Cullen in a dramatic final in 2022 to claim his sixth Premier League title in Berlin.

Michael van Gerwen is the favourite in every event he goes in. I believe if they all play well, he wins and he proved that in 2022 by winning what he won.

It's a battle of the best going up against the best and I find it hard to believe he won't make the Play-Offs. Normally, he makes the Play-Offs and I think he'll do so again, but you cannot discount anyone because they are all world-class players.

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Take a look at all four of Michael van Gerwen’s Premier League whitewashes

Does Dobey deserve his spot?

Chris Dobey win The Masters Darts
Image: Wayle Mardle says Chris Dobey is a world-class player who deserved his spot in this year's Premier League

Chris Dobey is getting a hang of this darts lark. In the last five majors that he's participated in he's reached two quarter-finals, a semi-final and now a win. He's a world-class player and he's on the up.

They seem to have set a precedent with Jonny Clayton and Joe Cullen winning the Masters in previous years. Clayton goes and wins it, while Cullen goes within a width of a wire of winning it on debut.

I wouldn't rule out Dobey from winning it at all.

What about the clamour for Luke Humphries?

Nathan Aspinall vs Luke Humphries at Grand Slam of Darts
Image: Nathan Aspinall was handed a Premier League spot, but world No 5 Luke Humphries missed out

I believe he has let a possible selection for the Premier League get to him in the last couple of months and during the Masters his head was absolutely everywhere.

He looked lost and someone who was devoid of confidence and unfortunately he succumbed to wanting to be in the Premier League more than winning the Masters.

He'll get over it. He'll be absolutely distraught, but he's the world No 5 for a reason. He's won a handful of events, but I also feel for Danny Noppert and Ross Smith.

Was there ever a case for Gabriel Clemens?

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Gabriel Clemens made a name for himself after dumping out Gerwyn Price to reach the semi-finals of the World Championship

No, I don't think so. I get the German audience, but without sounding disparaging to Gabriel you can't play well for one event and then be selected for the Premier League. You've got to play a bit better than that.

He didn't play well at the Masters and looked under pressure. It would have been too soon for him.

How will Aspinall, Clayton and Van den Bergh get on?

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Jonny Clayton beat Jose de Sousa to win the Premier League on his debut season

If you perform later in the year, then you've got more of a chance. That's where I think the selection of Nathan Aspinall comes in.

He's played decent in Premier Leagues before but getting to the finals of the Grand Prix and Grand Slam I believe definitely has a benefit if you perform later in the year.

Jonny Clayton wins the Premier League on debut in 2021, he wins the league phase in 2022. Yeah, put him in. He's a likeable guy. He'll sell tickets and people will want to watch him play.

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Get ready for more of this from Dimitri Van den Bergh during this season's Premier League...

Dimitri Van den Bergh will be making his second appearance and people often forget that he led the Premier League for eight or nine weeks on his debut year. He's won the Matchplay and been runner-up at the same event.

He's won two recent world series events and I know he's not everyone's cup of tea but you can't take away his ability and for the growth of the game, I understand why he's in it.

There have been 39 players who would have played in the Premier League in what will be its 19th year and people come and go. People get selected and people get left out - that will never change.

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Phil Taylor took on James Wade at Wembley Arena in a remarkable Premier League encounter

Are you still happy with the format?

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Welshman Clayton spoke about the new Premier League format on opening night last season

I was in four of the first five Premier Leagues and I saw a couple of changes in format then.

It makes little difference to the players. It's all about what's watchable and what is exciting and I really enjoyed the cut and thrust of it last year. It was relentless!

I liked the fact that to win a night you've got to play well. Every single player last year won a night, but ultimately darts was the winner!

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Remember when Raymond van Barneveld shocked Van Gerwen to win his first title at the O2 Arena?

Your favourite venue is?

General view of the new Leads Arena during its handover by Leeds City Council to SMG Europe. The Arena was named as the most exciting new venue this year globally by Billboard magazine.
Image: Leeds Arena is a favourite with Mardle

It's between Leeds and Glasgow because of the way they are set out. They're amphitheatres, but even the smallest venues are full of atmosphere.

I've been lucky to be involved in every Premier League, either playing or commentating, and I have to say I love it.

2023 Premier League Schedule

Night 1 The SSE Arena, Belfast February 2
Night 2 Cardiff International Arena February 9
Night 3 OVO Hydro, Glasgow February 16
Night 4 3Arena, Dublin February 23
Night 5 Westpoint Exeter March 2
Night 6 The Brighton Centre March 9
Night 7 Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham March 16
Night 8 Utilita Arena, Newcastle March 23
Night 9 Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin March 30
Night 10 Utilita Arena, Birmingham April 6
Night 11 M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool April 13
Night 12 Rotterdam Ahoy April 20
Night 13 First Direct Arena, Leeds April 27
Night 14 AO Arena, Manchester May 4
Night 15 Utilita Arena, Sheffield May 11
Night 16 P&J Live, Aberdeen May 18
Play-Offs The O2, London May 25

The new Premier League Darts season will begin at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Thursday, February 2, the first of 17 individual venues to host the 2023 Premier League, which will be staged on Thursday nights from February to May - live on Sky Sports!

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