Robbie Earle: Owen is a bargain, but Stoke will have to play it his way to make the best of the deal
TONY Pulis has not only brought one of England's greatest goalscorers to the Britannia Stadium, he's about to usher in a new way of playing too.
That's the only conclusion I can reach after Pulis added goalscorer extraordinaire Michael Owen to the new arrivals, along with the silky midfield skills of Charlie Adam.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting Pulis to completely abandon the tactics which have brought Stoke so much success. But I do expect him to modify Stoke's direct style to get the best out of Adam and especially Owen.
The England striker is at his best running on to 10-yard passes slipped down the side of the defence, which is why I expect Stoke to start getting the ball down and being a little more precise in their approach play.
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I'm not belittling Stoke's long ball game, but there is a danger they will get worked out unless they are prepared to change.
We are talking evolution rather than revolution, but I'm sure it's no coincidence Tony Pulis has brought in a quality passer of the ball such as Adam.
That should mean Owen has plenty of ammunition if he stays fit.
Inevitably there are question marks over Owen's fitness because he has hardly played in the last 12 months, but I still think City have pulled off a great deal.
Signing Owen on a free, reportedly for around £30,000 a week, depending on appearances, represents a bargain in today's Premier League market.
He hasn't had a pre-season with a club, so for the first few games I would expect to see him in 15 to 20-minute cameos from the bench.
I don't expect opposition defences will relish the prospect.
Sure, Owen doesn't have the pace he had when he burst on to the scene for club and country, but he is an intelligent footballer and a world-class finisher.
I always think top centre-forwards should be good at those old "spot the ball" competitions because they have a picture of the game in their head and can anticipate where the ball is likely to go next.
People say strikers like Owen always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Well that's no coincidence – it's an instinct that great goalscorers like Owen have.
Being in the right place is one thing, but you still have to stick the ball in the net.
Owen is one of the best finishers of his generation. In fact, Gary Lineker is perhaps the only Englishman to compare with him over the last 30 years.
You don't always have to blast it, but whether smashing, chipping or passing the ball past the opposition goalkeeper, Owen ensures the chance ends up in the net more often than not.
His lack of club games has cost him his England place, but given a one-on-one in a crucial international match, I'd sooner have Owen trying to take the chance than other quality goalscorers such as Jermain Defoe or Darren Bent.
Owen could well have won the game at Wigan last Saturday when Stoke were well on top in the final stages before having to settle for a 2-2 draw.
However, I'm sure City fans were happy enough with that performance, particularly after Adam made such a positive impression after coming off the bench to make his debut for the club.
Things didn't work out for him at Liverpool, but Stoke are getting a player who will add plenty of creativity to their midfield.
I also reckon Tony Pulis has done a smart piece of business by recruiting Steven Nzonzi from Blackburn. He's a rangy, athletic player, but is more than just a midfield destroyer.
He's good on the ball too, and I believe was being looked at by Arsenal last season.
He will add a bit of quality to the side and I'm sure City fans are looking forward to seeing him and Adam in Tony Pulis's new-look midfield.
With Owen firing the bullets up front, Stoke fans have a lot to look forward to.