John Higgins has done little of late to suggest a fifth world title success is likely but form is not necessarily relevant for the Scot.
He was the best player of the 1997/98 season when he won his first world title and again in 2005/06 when he lost in the first round.
A year later he turned up in Sheffield after a far from outstanding season and won a second title. In 2009, he wasn’t pulling up trees and won again. Two years ago he was the player to beat and nobody did beat him.
It would be foolish to write Higgins off. He knows exactly how to win at Sheffield. If his game comes together he is capable of beating anyone. Many players will tell you he and Ronnie O’Sullivan are still the best players in the game.
Indeed, they have won the title five times between them from the last six stagings of the World Championship and this year are drawn in the same quarter, 17 years after their first Crucible meeting.
What Higgins has is the ability to mix it better than most. He always seems to know what the right shot is and invariably plays it. He has an iron tactical game and can score as heavily as anyone.
Last year he bombed out 13-4 to Stephen Hendry in the second round. It was a poor display devoid of any rhythm or confidence.
Earlier in this campaign Higgins was playing well, particularly to win the Shanghai Masters, but his concentration seems to have wavered too often since, leading to wild inconsistency of performance and results.
At the Crucible Higgins seems to play well or well below par. He is as likely to lose in the first round this year as win it.
And in some ways for a multi champion to be such an unknown quantity makes him dangerous. He, and O’Sullivan, have what most players in the field do not: an aura built on reputation. It’s one of the reasons Hendry was still doing well in the tournament after his peak.
So the form may be patchy but the record is not. Higgins’s claim on a fifth title cannot merely be dismissed because he has struggled of late.