Van Gerwen’s makes it a Premier League hat-trick in Liverpool: where can his form take him?

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Michael van Gerwen claimed a record-breaking third successive victory on Night Six of the Darts Premier League last week. After wins in both Dublin and Exeter, the Dutchman beat current world number one Michael Smith in the final 6-4 in Liverpool, becoming the first player to achieve a hat-trick since the Premier League changed format to the nightly knockouts.

Having opened up a sizeable lead against his competitors at the top of the table, some have suggested that MVG is a cut above the rest and that he can once again dominate the sport in years to come.

It is clear that van Gerwen is the best player in the world at this moment in time. He was the most successful player last year, winning the Grand Prix, the Matchplay and the Players Championship and, despite losing in this year’s World Championship final, he remains the man to beat.

With his skill level and consistency, he is in prime position at the top of the Premier League table as he looks to defend his title, which culminates with the play off night at the O2 Arena in May.

Yet the position he is in is perhaps not as dominant as it seems. In Dublin, the first victory of his three on the spin, he rode his luck, surviving seven match darts from Gerwyn Price before pinning double four to rob the title from the Welshman. Had he lost this tie, which was certainly plausible given Price’s outstanding form on the night, he would appear slightly more vulnerable.

Indeed, it is important not to get too carried away with Premier League victories. It is a relatively high variance type of competition, given the short nature of the games, making the parameters for judging the standard at which a player is throwing poor.

It is clear that van Gerwen is the best player in the world at this moment in time

Averages can be skewed and factors such as throwing first are crucial in such few legs, as there is little time for an opponent to find a break of throw. Moreover, the exclusion of some of the best darts players in the world, such as world number five Luke Humphries and last year’s finalist Joe Cullen, demonstrates that the non-ranking event cannot always be taken at face value.

This caveat is not to take away from MVG’s incredible achievement, but rather a message of caution.

Indeed, at the UK Open, dubbed the FA Cup of darts because of its unseeded, open draw, van Gerwen was strong favourite to secure victory. Yet he came out second best to outsider Andrew Gilding in a huge upset for the bookmakers. Whilst another final highlights yet again the greatness of the three-time champion of the world, his dominance is not a given, nor is it insurmountable.

Speaking about his own standard after the Premier League victory in Liverpool, the Dutchman said, “I think my game is at 90%. I’m not at my best, but I know how to win when I’m not playing my A-game.

“I feel good, I feel comfortable and I’m in a comfortable position in the table, which is where you want to be.” He also acknowledged that it is also still very early days in the competition: “I have won three nights now, but there is still 11 or 12 to go, so it’s on to the next one.”

With his reflection of his own game at present, coupled with the current competitive standard of darts as it is, it is unlikely that we will see a year of dominance like that of MVG’s in 2016, where he won six out of seven televised major ranking events. But his fantastic form is an indication that he will win titles this year. He is playing far too well to have a barren year. The question is, can he keep it up until the business end of the year?

Image: Immo Wegmann via Unsplash

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