Will MVG stop the title rot?
By Chris White 27/11/2020
The next instalment of this unprecedented feast of darts kicks off at 12.45 on Friday with everybody scrambling to find form ahead of the big one at Ally Pally.
After briefly flirting with underdog status for the Grand Slam, Michael van Gerwen rose to the head of the market again before being dumped out by his 2020 nemesis, Simon Whitlock.
That hasn’t stopped the bookies opening up with the Green Machine as favourite once more at the PC Finals.
Does he represent a good bet at 4/1? It’s debatable. At face value, probably not. He’s not featured at the business end of a major TV tournament in nigh-on 8 months.
On the other hand, there was something that looked different at the Ricoh last week. For the first time in a long time there were genuine signs of consistency in the throw, and the old clinical nature that will surely have some rivals worried. Is Van Gerwen returning to form just at the right time? Possibly.
The other reason for fancying MVG’s chances is the problems that both Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price had in finding their best form at the Grand Slam.
Price never looked at his sharpest and Snakebite’s performance against Devon Petersen in being eliminated at the group stage was well below even his B game. With this tournament coming so soon after, there isn’t much time to iron out those problems on the practice board.
De Sousa, the man of the man moment, will continue to be dangerous and at a juicy 14/1 will tempt many.
Will there be a hangover from the elation of his first TV major? It would be understandable. Jose will be on Cloud Nine and may find it tough to get straight back to business a couple of days later with everything that’s been going on. He has a big target on his back now too – the hunter has become the hunted.
Others in the mid-price bracket could go far. Devon Petersen is again around the 25/1 mark and will be disappointed at the way he exited the Slam at the hands of Damon Heta (another outsider with a chance, at 40/1).
After some technical and injury concerns at the Winter Series, Big Dev admitted working hard in between resting his wrist and with a few days off to prepare, he could come into the PC finals simmering. It’ll be very interesting to watch how he starts and he has a tricky opener against World Youth Champ Luke Humphries.
Michael Smith (16/1) has looked a million bucks this month and will be smarting at De Sousa reversing their group result to knock him out of the Grand Slam. Particularly as De Sousa then went all the way.
Smith looks a very sound bet at that price – he’s flattered to deceive many times of course but with things as open as they are at the moment, he has every chance of breaking his duck.
Then you have the usual suspects including Aspinall, Wade, Durrant, Whitlock. Nobody in their right mind could fancy Durrant to go all the way (even at 50/1) – surely this event is too soon for him on his road to full recovery.
Wade played superbly and got undone in the end by a player who simply had a higher gear. And that’s the problem with backing Wade – the chances of him going all the way, you can’t help but feel depend more on the performances of others than The Machine himself.
Dimi Van den Bergh was in record-breaking mood last week, eventually falling just short. We’ve not seen him deliver those kinds of displays in back-to-back tournaments yet in his career, and that makes the 22/1 on offer slightly less enticing than some of the others around that price. There’s also a chance he’ll have suffered from his dramatic exit at the hands of Wade.
If you want a rank outsider, there’s one name that jumps off the page: Adrian Lewis. Lewis played brilliantly in spells in the latter part of the Winter Series and that’s the last time we’ve seen him. More importantly than the results, was that he once again looked to have found that beautiful, rhythmic action.
He was hitting 180s for fun and taking big out-shots. We all know what Jackpot is capable of – there are few who can live with him if he’s at his best and if he’s anywhere near that, the 200/1 on offer with Skybet is a joke.
He has Simon Whitlock first and given Whitlock’s form, Lewis could fail to advance beyond Round 1 but if he gets through and is playing like he was in the Winter Series, nobody will relish playing him. The days of players consistently averaging 105+ to win tournaments look to be over (for now anyway), and Lewis used to mix it, and grab his share, back in those days. Even if he’s producing solid 95-99 displays, hitting his doubles and feeling good, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him contending.
Once all is done and dusted it’s time for the big one at Ally Pally. And if you’re going to back Van Gerwen for that one, probably best to do so now. If he cleans up at the PC Finals you can expect a tectonic shift in his odds for the Worlds, with the bookies clearly on a knife edge when pricing him up at the moment.
Pictures by Taylor Lanning