Van Gerwen no certainty to win in quality finals field
Angerson first up for favourite
Sky Sports 2, 7pm Thursday
The top three in the darting world - plus a 16-time world champion- head for the O2 in London for the finals of the Betway Premier League and bookmakers still can’t see past Michael van Gerwen successfully defending his crown.
Van Gerwen was the 8-13 favourite when the ten-man invitational event began in February. Three months later having finished on top of the league table, the world No.1 goes into semi-finals he’s a 4-6 shot.
The reason he’s no shorter even though the field has been whittled down to just four is that the Dutchman knows he’s going to have to play out of his skin to beat first Gary Anderson and then either Peter Wright or Phil Taylor.
And given that he’s failed to win three of his last six Premier League matches - including once against Wright, and once against Taylor -and was held to a 6-6 draw by Anderson earlier in the competition, there’s a case for taking the 11-8 the field.
Two years ago Van Gerwen went into the playoffs as a rock-solid odds-on favourite and got chinned by Anderson in the final.
He’s unquestionably the best player in the world, but he pipped Wright for top spot by only a point and the three men up against him are proven winners.
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
Head-to-head: Van Gerwen leads 27-14
Michael van Gerwen warmed up for his semi-final clash with Gary Anderson by beating the same man 7-4 in the final round of regular-season action in Aberdeen.
That triumph, coupled with the fact that these two have met seven times in 2017 and Van Gerwen has won five of those, makes the Dutchman hard to dislike.
Odds of 1-3, however, are short enough, especially when we know what Anderson can do when he turns on the style.
A better bet looks to be Van Gerwen being kept below a 104.5 average.
He averages a fraction over that throughout the tournament, although he hasn’t hit it in ten of 16 matches. Having been best-of-12 affairs to this point, the semis are best of 19 legs which means an extra opportunity for a scrappy leg or two and it would take only a few missed doubles to send the averages tumbling.
Van Gerwen is favourite to hit more 180s, with Anderson an 8-5 chance. The Dutchman hits a maximum every 2.96 legs, the Scot one every 3.09.
Peter Wright v Phil Taylor
Head-to-head: Taylor leads 20-9
Six-time champion Phil Taylor is the big outsider in the field – but he’s also the biggest hitter left in.
This will be a whole new experience for Peter Wright, who is playing in his first Premier League playoffs, while this is a regular do for The Power, who is loving every minute of his farewell tour before heading into retirement.
They’ve beaten each other once over the course of the campaign and if Taylor throws consistently well there’s absolutely no doubt he can take down Snakebite.
In terms of averages – 98.8 Wright, 98.1 Taylor – there’s precious little in it and even though Wright, the current UK Open champion, now revels on the big stage, this could easily be a tough game for him.
Take it to go the distance - or Taylor to win it - by backing the former world champion at 11-10 with a 1.5-leg start on the handicap.
The other bet is Wright to hit more 180s. The Scot pegged 46 maximums in 159 legs during the regular season while Taylor hit nine fewer in 172 legs.
1pt 11-8 Betway, BoyleSports
M van Gerwen under 104.5 average v G Anderson
2pts 4-5 Hills
P Wright to score more 180s v P Taylor
2pts 4-6 Coral, Ladbrokes
P Taylor +1.5 legs
1pt 11-10 Betway