On-Loan: Assaidi Adjusting Admirably

Mark Thompson

After a disappointing debut season with Liverpool, Oussama Assaidi has largely acquitted himself well on loan with Stoke City this season.

Once a surprise signing and hopeful contributor to Liverpool's squad, Oussama Assaidi spent most of last season doing not much of anything useful. Brought in to add depth and another element of quality to the wings, he wound up doing neither, looking ineffective in most of his 13 senior squad appearances, and ultimately being left out of the matchday squad more often than he was in it.

This summer, after not being much involved in the preseason friendlies, Assaidi was finally loaned to Stoke City just a few days before the transfer deadline in order to get him more regular playing time and Premier League experience. Despite the initial reaction of "ugh, Stoke", the move made sense once you consider that Stoke manager Mark Hughes has actually had a fair amount of success with wingers of Assaidi's inside-out style.

Assaidi got off to a fairly slow start with his new club, not playing a league match until October, though he did play a pair of League Cup matches in the interim, notching the assist on the clinching goal as a substitute in Stoke's 2-0 win against Tranmere in the third round. His first goal would come against Championship side Birmingham City in the fourth round of the League Cup in late October, but Assaidi still found regular league minutes hard to come by.

Then came December, and everything changed.

After being pressed in to service against Everton on November 30th and being basically the only Stoke player to acquit himself well in a 4-0 beatdown from the Toffees, Assaidi started seeing regular starts and his form exploded. The winger would start eleven matches in December and January, only missing Stoke's match against Liverpool and coming off the bench against Chelsea in the FA Cup. He scored three impressive goals during that run, and earned an assist against Leicester City in the FA Cup. Even when he wasn't scoring, Assaidi was playing quite well, making himself a nuisance and generally making it hard for Hughes to drop him from the squad.

Assaidi's form had drooped a bit in February, though, and now will miss "a number of weeks" after a knee injury suffered while the club was training in Dubai last week. It's believed he will miss at least six weeks, so will be unavailable until the final stretch run of the season. Hopefully he can finish strong and recapture some of that wonderful winter form before he returns to Liverpool.

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Assaidi's future with Liverpool is still a little hazy, though his strong season so far has certainly helped. He's not really a "Brendan Rodgers Player", per se, and that definitely seemed to work against him at times last season. On the other hand, he's the best already-owned option to give Raheem Sterling a backup next season, which would have significant value should Liverpool make the Champions League and have to deal with the extra matches that entails.

Given that Liverpool is likely to buy another attacker or two in the summer, however, that would again leave Assaidi without a clear role in the club. That means it's likely he'll be sold to add a few extra euros to the transfer kitty, which might be best for both parties. Fortunately for Liverpool, Assaidi's form this season has probably helped his transfer value, meaning they should be able to recoup their €4 million expenditure on him at the least.

Even if he doesn't play another minute for Liverpool, Assaidi can still be of use to the club. He's skilled enough that he will be able to help out another Premier League side now that he's more established in the league. In fact, he could be of particularly great use to one of the clubs that gets promoted to the EPL next season, so don't be shocked if that's where he winds up. Either way, best of luck to Assaidi in his future.

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