Stoke boss Mark Hughes added to his options on the flank earlier this week by snapping up Oussama Assaidi from Liverpool on a season-long loan deal. The 25-year-old becomes the third summer arrival since Hughes’ installation at the Britannia, following the acquisition of defenders Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa – in an interview with the Potters official website, the Moroccan revealed he was much in demand before opting to join up with the Staffordshire outfit:
“I had a number of options available to me but I really feel that this is the best one for me. I am excited about what the season holds for us. I spoke to the manager here, he told me his hopes for the season and how he sees me fitting into the team and he made it a very attractive move for me to be honest. He plays football the right way, the way that I want to play, and it was quite an easy decision for me to make in the end. I came to the game on Saturday and watched the match and I was impressed. I feel I can fit in here well and help the team to progress.”
A product of the AZ Alkmaar youth academy, Assaidi’s career began in the Dutch second-tier with Omniworld back in 2006. Over the course of a couple of seasons, he registered three goals from 36 appearances before making his way to De Graafschap ahead of the 2008/09 season. Assaidi’s first year at the club produced just a couple of goals from 16 appearances but after netting five times in as many games at the start of the following campaign, he was purchased by Heerenveen prior to the closer of the summer transfer window.
The Moroccan took time to settle in his new surrounds, with just one goal and three assists from 20 league games but stepped up significantly the year after. Assaidi racked up nine goals and 13 assists from 31 top-flight matches and followed that up with 10 goals and seven assists over 27 games in 2011/12. Having played a single match for the Dutch club at the start of last season, he was snapped up by Liverpool for a fee of around £2.4m but failed to impress new Reds boss Brendan Rodgers – all four of his league appearances arrived courtesy of the subs bench.
After falling firmly behind the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling for a role on Liverpool’s left, the move to the Britannia certainly looks in the Moroccan’s best interests. Granted, Stoke have no shortage of wide men to provide competition – Matthew Etherington has started both league games thus far, while Michael Kightly and fit-again Brek Shea are also in the mix.
Crucially, though, Assaidi’s speed on the flank may help edge him ahead in Hughes’ thinking as the new man in charge looks to inject a little more urgency to his side’s play out wide. Upon completion of the deal, the Potters boss explained:
“He’s an exciting player, who has great pace and is very direct and will certainly add another dimension to what we already have at the Club.”
Certainly, Etherington’s failure to produce a single goal or assist over the entirety of the previous campaign suggests he’s at risk from the new arrival, with Hughes desperate to add more directness to his attacking options as he attempts to introduce a slicker, more possession-based approach to the Potters’ play. Assaidi’s stats across his last couple of full seasons in Holland certainly highlight his capabilities and, if given a run of regular games, may be one to consider. Already handed a 45-minute debut in last night’s Capital One Cup win over Walsall, his performance was hailed by Hughes, who has already tipped him to be a crowd favourite.
Coming in at just 4.9 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and 4.2 in the Sky Sports game, Assaidi could potentially hand Fantasy managers a real budget option for their five-man midfields over the season ahead. At present, though, with more secure options such as Cardiff’s Peter Whittingham or Hull’s Robbie Brady in the same price bracket, we’ll be happy to keep our distance until Hughes’ intentions for the new boy become apparent. An upcoming run of matches which see the Potters play West Ham and Arsenal away and welcome City to the Britannia will certainly deter any initial suitors, affording us time to assess Assaidi’s impact before contemplating any possible transfer in.