Five-time Premier League Darts champion Michael van Gerwen is back where he belongs but there is still a lot of unfinished business to attend to, beginning with this year’s Play-Offs in Milton Keynes on Friday night.
As the last four standing in this year’s competition prepare for the finale in front of 1000 fans at the Marshall Arena, Van Gerwen is finding form at the right time – it’s been a tough 18 months for the man who has ruled the darting waves.
Last year, for the first time in his illustrious career Van Gerwen failed to make the top four, and watched on as Glen Durrant lifted the title that MVG had won for each of the four previous seasons.
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“At least I have done better than last year,” he laughs when Sky Sports asked him to look back on a run of form that has seen him win just three titles since the UK Open in March 2020.
“My head wasn’t really there last year and my performance wasn’t there – this year, I have got a few more steps to go but I am getting there.
“It’s not been a brilliant 12 months or so, for everyone, I know that – but it is not like someone has stood up and no one has really dominated.
“I don’t look back, you need to look to the future, that is the only thing that counts for me.
Gerwyn Price might take issue with the statement that no one has dominated. The Iceman, who had to withdraw from this year’s Premier League after a positive covid-19 test ahead of the competition, has taken Van Gerwen’s world no 1 spot – ending a seven-year reign for the Dutchman at the top of the rankings.
Price has also added a World Championship, a World Cup and a World Grand Prix crown to his mantlepiece while Van Gerwen’s only televised title in the last 14 months was the Players Championship Finals.
It’s no secret that the Green Machine thrives in front of a crowd, a crowd which have returned this week in Milton Keynes, and as they have got louder, Van Gerwen has got better.
He admitted to opening-night nerves as he was beaten by an inspired Nathan Aspinall on Monday night, but since then MVG has beaten Gary Anderson, Jose De Sousa and Peter Wright to enter the final night of action in red hot form.
“I know what I am capable of, but game after game, week after week, time after time, I have to fight for it.
“I love what I do, I love to perform in front of crowds and they have been phenomenal and I missed that, it’s been a long time and it takes a bit of getting used to again.”
Van Gerwen takes to the oche in the opening semi-final against Jonny Clayton, a man who has beaten him on the big stage before, including the final night of the first phase. The Dutchman extracted his revenge in the second phase and they’ll duke it out again for a place in the final.
It is a return to form, with six wins from his last seven games, in a tournament he las loved more than any other.
For all the talk of inconsistencies – around his performances if not his results – it might surprise many to know that MVG has never been outside the top four this year.
Van Gerwen has won the tournament five times, one away from Phil Taylor’s record – one of The Power’s landmarks he has spoken openly about targeting.
𝗟𝗘𝗔𝗚𝗨𝗘 𝗧𝗔𝗕𝗟𝗘! 📊
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Results this week mean he has topped the table and claimed the £25,000 winners bonus – the eighth time he has achieved the feat, again matching Taylor’s record. He may have slipped to third in the world rankings, but Van Gerwen remains the man to beat, as Wayne Mardle outlined before the final week of competition.
“The human being that Michael van Gerwen is – the dart player in him is just phenomenal,” he said.
“A lot of people know I have called him the best player I have ever seen in my life. I mean that for when he plays well. He is nowhere near as consistent as Phil Taylor, this period is proving that.
“He is still the best. We know [Gerwyn] Price is world No 1 and world champion, but when they all play well, when they all play their A-game, nobody matches Van Gerwen.”
Part 1 complete back finishing top of the table. Now for part 2 tomorrow and that’s winning the title. It was nice playing Peter with no pressure this evening and we could enjoy the match. Now it’s time to rest. Thank you for all the phenomenal support 💚💚 pic.twitter.com/Uiw76xzkNl
It’s fitting that as the crowds have returned, so has Van Gerwen’s form. He won the last title played in front of a crowd in the UK, beating Price to lift the UK Open in Minehead, and on Friday night he’ll be looking to claim the first trophy to be decided in front of fans since then.
For one of the sport’s greatest showmen it’s exactly how he wants it, but there is a caveat. His record in the latter stages of competitions has not been great over the last 12 months.
“I can’t complain with 23 points especially where I have come from, I’ve had to work on my game really hard and I have come so far.
“So to be able to win is really important but the most important day is still to come – and you want to be able to go into that with confidence.”
Until last year’s failure, Van Gerwen had reached seven finals – having played in seven Premier Leagues, he is determined to point things right and a top-of-the-table finish is a good springboard for a busy Friday night.
“I know what I am capable of, and even more all the others [players] know what I can do,” he smiles before a trademark Van Gerwen line finishes things off.
“If I can do the right things at the right moments and play my game again it’s going be impossible for them.”
Join us on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 7pm on Friday night for both semi-finals and the final as the PDC crown a new Premier League champion
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