Who Takes the Title at the o2?

Premier League Semi-FInalists Assessed.

Another Premier League group stage is over, finishing for the first time with two debutants at the summit. The elite club of those to have topped the group has a new name: 17-year-old Luke Littler. Whatever happens next Thursday, Littler’s achievement is outrageous even in comparison to the other outrageous ones of his career so far. He won’t go off as favourite at the o2, however. Almost half of voters on our X poll for the eventual winner plumped for World No.1 and World Champ Luke Humphries, mirroring the views of the bookmakers. Our resident experts thought the same. PDC statto and Darts Orakel stalwart Christopher Kempf, along with FDI founder Lendel Faria, both favour the man who overcame Littler at Ally Pally back in January.

Here’s a quick rundown of the chances of the four semi-finalists based on some stats.

Littler

Fearless and audacious, Littler’s best level is arguably the scariest in the sport right now. He’s recorded two of the highest three winning averages of this year’s campaign, including that 114 in a destruction of MvG. If The Nuke hits his heights, he could run away with it like he’s done in two Euro Tours this year already.

Another plus is his record against potential final opponent Humphries. After losing to him in that World Championship final, Littler won their next six meetings before Humphries stopped the rot with a deciding leg victory on the Euro Tour in April. If he makes it through Michael Smith and faces Humphries, he’ll fancy it. Making it through Smith is a big ‘if’ because the reverse applies to their head-to-head – in seven meetings, Littler has lost five. Smith certainly doesn’t seem phased by playing him. The other concern for Littler fans could be his most recent performances: his highest average in his last six matches in all events has been 97 and change. In two of his last four he’s averaged below 90. An insignificant blip, or the first signs of a lean spell?

Humphries

The stats will tell you Humphries is unquestionably the most likely to deliver a minimum standard on the night and the most likely to deliver something close to his best. That makes him favourite. He was the only player not to return a single average below 90 in the group stage. He averaged over 100 in well over half of his matches and over 105 in almost one quarter of them – considerably higher numbers than anyone else. He also has the highest running average in the PDC in all matches since the beginning of March (100.15). He’s won six on the spin against his semi-final opponent, Michael van Gerwen. There don’t seem to be many chinks in his armour. If there is one, it could be his record against Littler.

van Gerwen

We know MvG of late isn’t near the levels of consistency of Humphries, who has put him away six times on the trot without Michael making it past halfway in legs in three of those. Before you write him off though, consider this: in his last 13 major TV semi-finals, he’s averaged 100 or better in 9 of them. In three of the other four he’s been around the 99-mark. That’s the second-rate version of MvG since 2020, not the prime one. In major finals over the same period, he’s averaged 99+ in 8 out of 9.

We saw it last year when MvG made the playoffs with little fuss, then sprang into life on finals night when Price entered as the favourite. It sounds insane but he seems to play well when he wants to these days, and that tends to be in these kinds of situations. In the group stage he had six averages over 105 (the same as Littler, in six fewer matches). One of those came in the final week, suggesting he’s warming up for the big one.

It’s probable that the once most feared player on the planet will be sent packing by Humphries but if anyone will produce a monster display out of the blue, it’ll be him.

Smith

Smith is the dark horse – an outsider who might have timed his run perfectly. Joe Cullen snuck into the playoffs at the death in 2022 and came within a wire of the title and Smith could do similar in 2024. He hasn’t caught fire for any sustained spell yet this year but he evidently has no fear of Littler and if he gets on a roll, we know he’s as good as there is. With a seasonal average of just over 95, he’s punching considerably below his weight so if there’s any mean reversion to occur next Thursday, it’s Smith who could make the largest leap towards the standard we’ve come to associate with him. A return to form would make him more than a handful and as a 7/1 shot with bookmakers, last week’s winner surely represents the best value in the field.

Editorial Staff

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The van Gerwen/Littler Comparison

The van Gerwen/Littler Comparison

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