Stoke City added to their options up front last week with the intriguing acquisition of Michael Owen. The free agent arrives at the Britannia on a one-year deal, following his release from Manchester United this summer and is the seventh signing of what has been a busy summer for Potters’ boss Tony Pulis:
Upon completion of the deal, Owen admitted he was keen to strike up a partnership with Peter Crouch up front but, with the likes of Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome all in contention, he admitted he expects a battle on his hands:
I know a couple of lads here from past experience, be that with England or different clubs. Peter is one of them. He has done fantastically well since he joined Stoke, but there are many strikers at the club so I am not expecting it to be an easy ride. I will have to work to play any part and I am prepared to do that. There are a lot of top players at the club. I am just going to hopefully fit in well with the squad and have a good season.
It was way back in 1996-97 that Owen first sprung onto the domestic scene. Scoring on his debut for Liverpool against Wimbledon, his spell on Merseyside lasted a further seven seasons, with 216 league appearances harvesting 118 goals. Tempted to Spain by Real Madrid, he produced 14 goals from just 20 starts (and 16 sub appearances) for the La Liga giants before Newcastle paid £16.8m for his services in August 2005.
Then the injuries kicked in. Owen managed just 14 appearances in his first two seasons on Tyneside, with thigh, foot and knee problems all significantly curtailing his game time dramatically. His final couple of campaigns continued to be plagued with injury, with Owen managing 19 goals from 57 league matches before leaving the club as a free agent in July 2009. The striker’s time at United was again limited by injury, with hamstring and thigh problems scuppering his chances – Owen started just six league matches over three seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson. Over a total of 31 appearances, he scored five times before, once again, becoming a free agent in the summer.
Let’s face it – with that injury history, most of us will be expecting Owen to struggle for any sort of game time. The assumption that niggles and strains will get the better of him seems a fair one but if (and it’s admittedly a big “if”) he can stay fit and injury-free, his prospects may not be as bad as many fear.
Certainly, it’s a notion that Crouch has already entertained. The duo’s partnership produced a goal a game over 16 starts together for England and the former Spurs man reckons it could thrive once again:
The fact we’re so different is a strength – it’s the old Little and Large act. Whenever I’ve played with that sort of striker – Jermain Defoe, Kevin Phillips or Michael – it’s always gone well. He was in on Thursday for his first day of training and I have to admit he looked very sharp for someone who has been out for so long.
Any potential pitch time for Owen is bound to impact on Jonathan Walters the most. The latter, however, was the only player to start every league match last season under Pulis – a sign of his manager’s faith. Walters could move to the flank if Owen was selected up top, though, a situation which could see him vie for a flank role along with Matt Etherington on the left. It may well be Walters and Crouch continue up top, with Owen initially afforded the role of impact sub late on in games as Pulis looks to build the new boy’s match-fitness.
At 5.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and 6.6 in the Sky Sports game, Owen is certainly far cheaper than Crouch (6.5 and 8.8 respectively) and his presence up top would certainly dent Walters’ appeal as an out-of-position midfielder in the FPL game. With (MCY, che, SWA, liv, mun) to follow in the next five Gameweeks, though, the Potters are set to be given a wide berth until the fixture list improves – by then, we may get a little more indication of whether it’s the first-team or treatment room for Owen once again.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas