James Wade’s superb victory, in this weekends German Matchplay, included a 6-2 win over the apparently imperious Michael van Gerwen. Could this be the chink of light that players and fans have been looking for?
Despite his remarkable performances, in the early part of the Premier League, there have been a few signs recently that “The Green Machine” is in fact human after all. Could it be that he has just gone off the boil? Are the sheer number of events and matches dulling his edge? Or have the others player begun to find ways to at least compete and so pull off surprise results? Or could it be that MVG is struggling at, what could be regarded as, the lesser events and less able to get himself motivated to produce his phenomenal best?
From the start of the 2016 season, barely a chink in Michael’s armour has been visible. He has simply blown away the field in virtually every event since. Pro Tour events that take place off camera, Euro Tour events that are on stage and TV matches at the UK Open and Premier League he has been almost unstoppable. Even the occasional defeat has seemed a blip or a freakish performance from the winner. However that is not quite the full story.
Following the UK Open closely would have given a clue to what may be one slight weakness. Qualifiers Rob Cross and Barry Lynn played very well against MVG. Each played their own game and did not appear to allow fear to affect them too much. They were both qualifiers who had nothing to lose and no previous Van Gerwen baggage. MVG looked off the pace (his own that is!) against them and had to find a moment or two of inspiration to get clearly ahead and win. It seems that he found that more difficult than removing players who he knows and who are damaged already or fear embarrassment.
A couple of close defeats to Benito Van de Pays over the last few months indicate that a player who can stay focused, restrained and throw to his own standard, can earn the chance to gain a prized win. Especially if no extra incentive or inspiration is provided.
Perhaps, to an outsider, the most surprising MVG defeat was inflicted by Ian “Diamond” White in a Pro Tour final during April. Whitey whitewashed Michael 6-0. No inkling of that result was obvious from the previous six games that day. Yet Ian is more than capable of astonishing darts and can be almost unstoppable when in a rhythm. He also gives little for the opponent to react to and is well liked and respected.
Other results give a glimmer of hope. Early rounds are producing closer games. Partially due to Michael seeming to need something to get him going. Recently in Gibraltar it almost seemed as if only danger of defeat brought the best out of him.
A player perfectly suited to exploit these glimmers of opportunity is James Wade. Vastly experienced and comfortable with his own game. He gives nothing extra for MVG to key off or react to. James wins a high percentage of legs on his own throw. He does not throw a high number of huge out-shots or average massively in comparison to some. Yet since last summer Wade has won three out of five encounters.
Meanwhile “The Power” has been edging back toward MVG. Recent games have been much closer, with Phil having strong spells. Could it be that the other players will step up and play their part?
The second half of 2016 looks set to be a superb battle. The field vs MVG with the field finally seeing a ray of light.