Although there was inevitably much fanfare when Michael Owen finally completed his move to Stoke in early September, both the player and manager Tony Pulis were quick to point out that it would take time for Owen’s impact on the first team to be felt.
Not only would he have to find match fitness having not been seen on a football pitch since November 2011, he would then have to earn his place in an attacking line up that has proved effective with Peter Crouch partnered by workaholic Jonathan Walters.
And difficult it has proved with Owen making an extremely low-key start to his Stoke career. His appearances from the bench may have brought tumultuous applause from the clubs’ supporters who are clearly delighted to have the former England striker on their books, but that fervour has masked the fact that Owen’s contribution has been minimal to say the least.
Indeed, one would have to say that his touches on the ball may not have even reached past 30 in all his appearances to date. While Owen has never been a link-up man, particularly at this stage in his career where his best work will surely be done inside the penalty box, Stoke watchers will also note that he has yet to truly fashion a chance for himself to open his account.
Perhaps that is a little harsh on Owen. As mentioned earlier, he is beginning his career at a new club missing a good chunk of preparation. For younger players that pre-season work is hugely important, so for a 32-year-old who has struggled with injury over the last few seasons, coming into a side where maximum fitness and commitment is required in every minute of every single game, it was never going to be easy.
Additionally, the fixture list has hardly been one for Stoke strikers to relish. Games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are not ones where opposition attackers will be afforded plenty of chances to score.
Besides the home game against Swansea, there has been no fixture where the Potters have been expected to dominate (a game where Owen did not even feature). Indeed, Owen can hardly be expected to score goals when sitting on the substitutes bench but that is testimony to the form of Crouch and Walters which, by and large, has been excellent this season.
Stoke’s upcoming fixtures look as if they may finally offer an opportunity for Owen to get off the mark, with clashes against Sunderland, Norwich, QPR, West Ham and Fulham – hardly what you would call the heavyweights of the Premier League.
However, one would have to say that Owen needs to step up his game quickly if he is to make a success of his move to the Britannia.
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