Michael van Gerwen's inconsistency has been a feature of this year's Premier League
Michael van Gerwen takes on Jonny Clayton on Night 11 in Milton Keynes, and he's bidding to avoid a fourth straight televised defeat against the Welshman - live coverage gets under way from 7pm on Sky Sports Main Event & Arena.
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 06/05/21 6:57pm
Michael van Gerwen has been the pinnacle of consistency for the majority of his Premier League Darts career, but this year's campaign has seen unpredictability reign where the Dutchman is concerned.
Van Gerwen and the Premier League was a match made in darting heaven for seven years. The 32-year-old topped the league phase from 2013 to 2019, lifting the title on five occasions and posting a record televised average of 123.40 during the 2018 edition.
He fended off challenges posed by Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith and Rob Cross to maintain his league phase monopoly, only to suffer seven defeats in a desperately disappointing 2020 season, which saw him register a sixth-place finish.
Premier League Darts 2021: Night 11 fixtures
|Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh|
|James Wade v Jose de Sousa|
|Gary Anderson v Peter Wright|
|Michael van Gerwen v Jonny Clayton|
Can The Green Machine solve his inconsistency?
He currently occupies second spot after 10 nights of action in 2021, although consistency has been at a premium for the three-time world champion.
He's posted four ton-plus averages across the opening 10 nights, but he's also registered four averages below 93 - including an 87.63 - the lowest in his nine-year stint in the sport's biggest roadshow.
His averages have been within a range of 22 points - majestic displays against Rob Cross and Jose de Sousa on Night 3 and Night 8 respectively were followed up by abject outings against James Wade and Jonny Clayton, where he was condemned to 7-3 defeats on both occasions.
Every defeat suffered by Van Gerwen is magnified given his status in the sport, but following an underwhelming Super Series campaign, the scrutiny intensified ahead of his clash against an in-form Dimitri Van den Bergh on Night 10.
'Beware of the wounded animal' is a phrase commonly used in sport and it was certainly pertinent in the case of Van Gerwen, who sent out a statement to the rest of the field with a sublime 8-3 success, averaging 109.96 - the highest of this year's competition thus far.
Van Gerwen's 2021 PL Averages
The five-time Premier League champion was averaging 118 as he stormed into a 5-0 lead, featuring bullseye finishes of 126 and 123 - it was Van Gerwen at his blistering best.
"Last week I had a horrible week, because I played really badly in the Super Series in Germany, so I had to come back, but never write off MVG on the stage," he told Sky Sports following his victory.
It would be remiss to question the credentials of 'The Green Machine' when he is still capable of producing such brilliance, but he does find himself in unfamiliar territory.
He is without a title at this stage of a season for the first time in a decade, he only occupies the solitary major ranking title, while he has also slipped to third on the PDC Order of Merit - his lowest position since 2013.
Admittedly the sport's growing strength in depth is a factor - the era of sustained dominance enjoyed by Phil Taylor and more recently Van Gerwen may be a thing of the past, but statistics collated by Darts Orakel are indicative of his inconsistency.
That was more me this evening. After the Super Series I had a big word with myself and tonight you saw that. Credit to @VandenBerghDimi I knew that I would have to play well to win and I did. But this means nothing if tomorrow isn’t the same. Thank you for all the support 💚💚 pic.twitter.com/H6I9Oejr80— Michael Van Gerwen (@MvG180) May 5, 2021
Van Gerwen a victim of his own success?
In some respects, Van Gerwen is the victim of his own success. His seasonal average of 98.49 still places him among the world's top four, but it's over three points lower than his 2018 figure of 101.55 - when he was arguably at the peak of his powers.
In terms of his scoring prowess, MVG is renowned for being the sport's most proficient operator on the treble 19 and his consistency is unwavering in that department, although his treble 20 hitting has gradually declined by four per cent since 2018.
However, the doubling statistics during the corresponding period are equally significant. Van Gerwen boasted an impressive 45 per cent success rate on the outer ring in 2018, which is a far cry from his ratio of 39.79 per cent throughout the last 12 months.
During this period, he ranks 28th on the PDC tour in terms of his doubling success, but there are signs of encouragement - he has moved up to 17th in 2021, with a success rate of just under 41 per cent.
Despite that, his doubling accuracy in 2021 is three per cent lower when his opponent is waiting on a double - the largest gap between these two metrics for MVG in the last four years - further indication that the world No 3 is not the infallible figure he once was in critical moments.
Michael van Gerwen - the key numbers
These factors have all contributed to a Premier League campaign littered with inconsistency for 'Mighty Mike', but he still finds himself just two points adrift of table-topper Nathan Aspinall, which is testament to his quality.
The question is - which Van Gerwen will grace the stage on Thursday evening? He was producing the type of performances seen against Van den Bergh on a regular basis three years ago, but at present, his game is shrouded in uncertainty.
The world No 3 has failed to register back-to-back ton-plus averages in this year's event, but his Night 11 clash against Jonny Clayton offers him the opportunity to produce top-class displays in consecutive nights.
Ahead of his showdown against 'The DreamMaker', Wayne Mardle described it as a 'make or break' evening for Van Gerwen from a psychological perspective, and the Dutchman delivered in emphatic fashion.
"I felt for him to play like that tonight, means that he has got belief. He mentioned it in his interview that he went to Germany and had a terrible time. He played awfully there," said Mardle.
Return of crowds could inspire MVG
"To come up on that stage against a man that maybe will take over as world No 1 in two, three, four, five years - he did it against the right person and Dimitri didn't roll over.
"He just played brilliantly Michael. He knows he can do it, we know he can do it, but we're just not seeing it night after night like we used to. If he does it again tomorrow, he might be saying: 'Ooh, maybe I am back a bit."
That's the key for Van Gerwen - replicating these performances on a consistent basis. There were signs of a resurgence at the World Championship when he performed magnificently, only to succumb 5-0 in the quarter-finals, albeit against a sensational Dave Chisnall.
The imminent prospect of crowds returning for the latter stages of the tournament could also provide the five-time Premier League winner with a timely boost.
Van Gerwen's seasonal averages
|2018 seasonal average:||101.55|
|2021 seasonal average:||98.49|
By his own admission - Van Gerwen thrives on the adrenaline and atmosphere generated by a capacity crowd: "Of course I miss crowds. Probably more than anyone else in the world because I love to perform in front of crowds. I really miss them because that makes darts."
However, champions are defined by their ability to adapt, and the Dutchman is undoubtedly one of the sport's finest champions.
It is fair to say that given his current inconsistency, it's hard to predict any game involving Michael van Gerwen with a sense of conviction, but as the man said himself: 'Never write off MVG on the stage."
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