Premier League Darts: Michael van Gerwen is chasing another title at The O2
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 17/05/18 5:01pm
Michael van Gerwen is chasing a fourth Premier League Darts title in next Thursday's Play-Offs, with Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and Rob Cross also vying for glory at the O2 Arena in London.
This year's top four has a fresh dimension, with two new faces in Smith and Cross appearing in the Play-Offs for the very first time.
Van Gerwen will take on Cross in a repeat of their classic World Championship semi-final, whilst the other semi-final sees Anderson take on his protege Michael Smith.
As we look ahead to finals night at the O2, we examine their Premier League past and assess how they've fared in this year's competition...
Michael van Gerwen - Position: 1st. Points: 23
Michael van Gerwen is the overwhelming favourite to lift a fourth Premier League crown at the O2 Arena, having secured top spot for the sixth consecutive season.
'Mighty Mike' has dominated the league phase since making his debut in 2013, and he is bidding to claim his third successive Premier League title next week, having never failed to appear in the final.
He defeated Phil Taylor on debut back in 2013, before suffering defeats against Raymond van Barneveld and Gary Anderson in the 2014 and 2015 finals.
However, he dismantled Taylor 11-3 in 2016, before surviving six match darts to edge out Peter Wright twelve months ago.
MVG thwarted by Snakebite
Although Van Gerwen topped the table once again, Peter Wright did the double over MVG. That's the first time in Premier League history that the Dutchman has lost twice to the same opponent in a single league season.
MVG's season so far...
Van Gerwen continued his monopoly in the league phase to seal top spot for the sixth straight season. Having fallen to defeat against Peter Wright in week two, MVG then reeled off an astonishing run of eight successive wins to pull clear of the chasing pack.
Van Gerwen's run then came to an end on home soil, as he suffered back-to-back defeats in Rotterdam against Wright and Van Barneveld, but he rallied impressively to clinch top spot.
After contesting a thrilling 6-6 draw with Daryl Gurney, MVG's league campaign culminated with comprehensive over Smith and Cross, before he suffered a narrow defeat to Anderson in the final week of league action.
However, his stunning 7-2 triumph over Cross just two weeks ago saw him post a spectacular 111.57 average - the highest of the season to date.
Wayne Mardle's Verdict - He's topped the table again and looking for a hat trick of Premier League title, four in total. He knows that if he plays well, he wins - that's invariably what happens.
The others will be looking for him to be defeated and it is up to him.
Michael Smith - Position: 2nd. Points: 20
Michael Smith has enjoyed a stunning resurgence on his return to the Premier League fold. 'Bully Boy' made his debut back in 2016 but was eliminated on Judgement Night, having accrued just three points from his opening nine matches.
His selection for this year's event was considered rather left-field, but he has comprehensively silenced any doubters by securing second spot in the table.
Smith clinched World Youth Championship glory at the O2 back in 2013, on the same night that Van Gerwen claimed his maiden Premier League title.
The pair are poised to meet in the final, in what could prove to be Smith's ultimate coming of age...
Consistency key for Smith
Michael Smith is the only player in this year's tournament who has maintained a position in the top four for all 15 weeks of action
Smith's season so far...
Smith is the only player in this year's field to have never slipped outside the top four. The St Helen's star enjoyed a blistering start on his Premier League return, winning his opening four games to dispel any elimination fears.
The highlights of Smith's campaign includes an extraordinary whitewash win over Raymond van Barneveld in Liverpool, whilst he's also inflicted back-to-back 7-1 drubbings on world number two Peter Wright.
'Bully Boy' has only lost five matches throughout the season, but all of those defeats have come against his fellow top four rivals.
He's picked up just three legs across his two ties against Van Gerwen, suffered two narrow losses against Cross, whilst he and Anderson have shared a win apiece in their two meetings. The question is, can Smith produce the goods against the very best?
Wayne Mardle's Verdict - The timing seems to have been perfect and some of the performances have made you say 'wow, this guy has got it - and he has.'
He has put the bad form of a couple of years ago behind him and now he looks like he is going to take his opportunities week in, week out.
Let's hope he is fit and well. If he is, despite being the outsider of the four, that does not mean he has no chance.
Gary Anderson - Position: 3rd Points: 19
Gary Anderson is the elder statesman of this year's top four and excluding Raymond van Barneveld, no other player in this year's line-up has more Premier League appearances under his belt than 'The Flying Scotsman'.
Anderson is a two-time Premier League champion, having triumphed on his debut back in 2011, before defeating Van Gerwen in a thrilling 2015 finale to become only the third player behind Phil Taylor and MVG to have claimed multiple Premier League titles.
The Scot has reached the play-offs in each of the last four campaigns, but three of those have culminated in semi-final exits. Two of those defeats- including last year's, were inflicted by Van Gerwen, who Anderson faces in next week's semi-finals.
Anderson's fantastic finishing
Gary Anderson has taken out 18 ton-plus finishes in this year's tournament. Only Michael van Gerwen (20) has produced more.
Anderson's season so far....
Anderson's participation in this year's tournament was plunged into immediate doubt after his opening week defeat to Michael Smith, as the Scot was visibly plagued by an ongoing back problem.
The two-time world champion only registered the solitary victory in his opening six matches but that is now a distant memory, as he enjoyed a stunning mid-season run to storm into play-off contention.
He won six of his next seven matches, whilst posting averages in excess of 109 in defeating both Smith and Gurney in Rotterdam to consolidate a play-off spot.
Anderson then suffered back-to-back defeats against Whitlock and Van Barneveld to leave his play-off hopes in the balance heading into Aberdeen, but he signed off with a thrilling win over Van Gerwen to secure third spot.
Wayne Mardle's Verdict - We saw it again, Gary is the one who matches Michael dart for dart when he is on form.
He has a Michael van Gerwen way of just getting on with it about him. His B game sometimes can not be good enough but if he is on he can win a third Premier League and he certainly won't be afraid to go out there and win it.
Rob Cross - Position: 4th Points: 19
Rob Cross was one of four debutants to be included in this year's fresh-faced Premier League line-up, but he is the only debutant appearing in the play-offs.
Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic were eliminated on Judgement Night, whilst Daryl Gurney narrowly missed out on a top four spot despite enjoying an impressive second-half of the season.
'Voltage' has consistently displayed the ability to overcome new obstacles, as evidenced when he stormed to World Championship glory on his debut back on New Year's Day.
Cross could become the first player since Van Gerwen in 2013 to lift the Premier League title on debut, but given his heroics at the Alexandra Palace, who would back against the former electrician making sparks fly at the O2?
Cross' remarkable recovery
Since the Premier League expanded to ten players in 2013, Cross is the first man to have reached the play-offs having been 10th in the table after two weeks.
Cross' season so far...
Cross endured a nightmare start to his Premier League debut, suffering consecutive thrashings against Van Gerwen and Whitlock which left him languishing at the bottom of the table after two nights.
However, despite his inexperience at Premier League level, 'Voltage' quickly acclimatised; winning seven of his next eight games, including victories over Wright, Van Barneveld, Anderson and Smith to move up to second in the table.
The world champion then endured a run of four games without a win, with draws against Wright and Van Barneveld sandwiched in between heavy defeats against Anderson and MVG.
Cross' winless run was extended to five games after he was held to a 6-6 draw by Whitlock on the final night in Aberdeen, which saw him slip below Anderson into fourth position.
Wayne Mardle's Verdict - On his day, well he wins and he wins world titles! He doesn't go missing for long, a couple of bad legs don't bother him and he plays his way very well back into matches.
The format is slightly longer in the play offs and that favours him and it's impossible to write him off.
Following the final night of league action in Aberdeen, the tungsten action continues through to the season's conclusion with the Play-Offs on Thursday, May 17 at The O2 in London.
Keep up to date with the latest darts news, previews, reports, reaction and expert analysis. Get all the latest at www.skysports.com/darts and join in the conversation @SkySportsDarts- don't forget to use #LoveTheDarts
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