Follow Form for Grand Slam

  • By: Reece Killworth
  • Last Updated: November 9 2012, 16:58 GMT

Michael van Gerwen: In red-hot form

1.5pts e.w Michael van Gerwen to win the Grand Slam at 12/1 (General).

1.5pts e.w. Simon Whitlock to win the Grand Slam at 10/1 (General).

1pt Tony O'Shea to qualify from Group E at 6/4 (Sky Bet).

1pts Raymond van Barneveld not to qualify from Group H at 13/8 (sportingbet).

This time 12 months ago I waded into Phil Taylor at 5/4 for the Grand Slam of Darts and reaped the (albeit moderate) rewards.

Back then - as I explained early in my preview - I was adopting the popular technique of backing 'The Power' whenever he was priced up at odds-against, unless there was a pretty strong reason not to.

To a certain extent that's still my outlook a year down the line, but even at 7/4 this time around there's enough of a 'strong reason' to put me off.

You only need compare his 2011 form to that so far this year.

By November 2011 he'd won three successive major titles and taken the Championship League title with a flawless nine victories at the final stage.

Twelve months on he has won the Premier League, World Matchplay and Championship League, but his form has been much patchier.

In the European Championship, for example, he exited in the quarter-finals to Brendan Dolan while Robert Thornton accounted for him at the Grand Prix.

Those surprise defeats certainly seem to be more prevalent now and though 7/4 could look a massive price come next Sunday - particularly as Taylor's strength nowadays is in the leg-based tournaments - I'll not only swerve him, but side with two red-hot form players in his half of the draw.

Michael van Gerwen (12/1) continued what has been a brilliant year by winning the Grand Prix - and I'm not convinced he's done yet in 2012.

He's won a couple of floor events (taking his annual total to an impressive six) since that thrilling night in Dublin and though tour events are a world away from the big stage, it's certainly a sign there's been no let-up in his form.

Yes, there will be a larger target on his back from having won that first major - but don't forget this is a lad who won the Winmau World Masters in the BDO at the age of just 17 and whose confidence must be sky-high right now.

The draw hasn't been as kind to him as it could have been but Thornton - who has beaten Taylor twice at majors this year - has recently had a few health problems while Ted Hankey and Steve Beaton shouldn't be able to live with van Gerwen if he comes out flying as he has in recent months.

Taylor could lie in wait in either the second or third round (I've never really understood why the tournament is set up as it is) but while van Gerwen would go into that potential match-up odds-against it's not one that would scare him.

The Dutchman beat former winner Scott Waites and Tony O'Shea here last year before exiting in the second round to Hankey but he's an altogether better player - both mentally and physically - as he heads back to Wolverhampton.

The same goes for Simon Whitlock, who though in Taylor and van Gerwen's half of the draw wouldn't meet either until the semi-finals.

The Australian certainly didn't reward our backing in the Grand Prix as he exited in the first round to Justin Pipe - but I'm giving him another chance.

Like van Gerwen he's won a floor event in the last few weeks (taking the Dutch Masters prize) and also like the Dutchman he's a major winner this year already having scooped the honours at the European Championship.

Whitlock had to miss last year's event due to the broken bone he suffered in his ankle in Benidorm but is a former quarter-finalist here.

Again, while there are no real mugs in this tournament, the form of Whitlock is such that he'll approach games with Kevin Painter, Dean Winstanley and James Hubbard without any fear and I'd fully expect him to top the group.

That sets up a second-round clash with the runner-up in Group D, who most would expect to be Mervyn King, though given the manner of James Wade's Grand Prix exit, at 2/1 King will attract support to top this section.

Thereafter it gets a little more complicated but I'd predict Taylor or van Gerwen to be his semi-final opponent and that won't faze him at all.

Albeit at slightly shorter than van Gerwen (presumably because he avoids Taylor for longer), I think he's also worth an each-way poke.

With Taylor in the top half it may strike people as strange that I'm backing two players with him, but I just can't pick the biggest danger in the bottom half.

Adrian Lewis obviously has to be carefully considered given his back-to-back World Championships but he's been in and out of form this year - and that's certainly not something you can say about Group E foe O'Shea.

'Silverback' won the BDO World Masters just last month to add to two Open wins earlier in the year and is currently top of the WDF Men's rankings.

He failed to get out of a pretty tough group here last year but has twice previously reached the second round in Wolverhampton.

With Lewis in patchy form - and not with the best record here it has to be said - Gary Anderson also up and down this year and former world champion John Part certainly not at his maximum, I've seriously considered the 5/1 on O'Shea to top the group but have settled on the 6/4 him qualifying.

Wes Newton certainly has his supporters - don't forget he's recently reached the Grand Prix semi-finals and European Championship final finalist and Sky Bet certainly rate his chances; he's 14s there and 25s elsewhere.

But while I like him in a group that doesn't look too taxing I think he's about the right price when you consider the likes of Lewis, Anderson, O'Shea, Andy Hamilton and Paul Nicholson are in and around him in the draw.

One man I'm happy to take on in the lower reaches of the draw, though, is Raymond van Barneveld.

At times 'Barney' has played some great darts this year - he's twice set a new mark for his own highest televised average - but at others he's been well short of his best and hasn't consistently sparkled at the majors.

His recent record in Wolverhampton isn't up to standard either - he's won just one of his last five matches and lost all three in what was regarded as a pretty presentable group this time 12 months ago.

Granted, the group he's in this time around doesn't look the most taxing at face value but if Christian Kist plays anything like he did in winning the BDO title in January he'll be a big threat while Mark Walsh and local favourite Wayne Jones aren't slouches and are experienced on the big stage.

A pool also containing Winstanley, Hankey and Ian White accounted for Barney a year ago, with the big Dutchman trailing home bottom.

And for me he is being priced up as favourite on reputation rather than recent form. At 13/8 not to qualify from the group we'll have a little play.

  • Preview posted at 0845 GMT on 09/11/2012.