Michael Olise: Crystal Palace’s Orchestrator on the Flanks

Michael Olise may have been famed for his blunt post-match interview last weekend, but the 20-year-old certainly doesn’t lack character on the pitch. One of the brightest young wingers in the Premier League. It seems only a matter of time before Olise becomes the latest Championship prospect to take his club form to the country. He first grabbed the spotlight at Reading before becoming an integral part of Crystal Palace’s sharp transition-heavy counter-attacking style under Patrick Vieira. Olise is technically outstanding. No one touch is wasted.


Palace have been earmarked for their lack of precision. For a team with such fluent back-to-front ball progression, they don’t have many finishers. Olise could be braver in this regard, and it’s certainly not for lack of ability that his winner against West Ham was his first league goal of the season. Olise’s talent, though, is best harnessed through his creativity. 


Ravaged by injury last season, Olise and teammate Ebereche Eze are taking the Premier League by storm this season. After a stop-start year, Olise has gone from strength to strength – averaging 4.74 shot-creating actions this season. Olise is the orchestrator. Only four players averaged more assists per90 last year. The Englishman glides with the ball, drifting through challenges before cutting in off the right and floating crosses to the back post.


Impact sub-turned-instigator, Olise doesn’t need 90 minutes to make himself known. He plays on his own time. Playground Panna, he draws defenders in before rolling past them, leaving straggling masses in his wake. The Hammersmith-born wide man enacts Houdini levels of deception on a weekly basis. Square up the defender, shimmy, then shake. Call it the Selhurst sleight of hand. The ball hasn’t moved, but the space has opened up. 


Wingers in the modern age are judged on efficiency over eloquence, but despite his tender age Olise is a throwback to the Glenn Hoddles of the game. Dribbles, deception and dexterity. It’s the old flow man’s bringing it back. But you can’t watch Olise through spreadsheets and data. This is the type of player you pay your admission fee for – it’s been said for as long as anyone can remember, but you get the best out of Palace’s tricky wide men with a prolific frontman.


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Odsonne Edouard and Jean-Phillipe Mateta have their moments, but with a talent like Olise behind them, Vieira should be seeing a greater return on his investment. With a consistent run of games under his belt, Olise is coming closer to emulating the sort of form he displayed throughout his time at Reading.


He has started seven of Palace’s last eight, playing the full 90 in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, grabbing an assist in Palace’s 2-1 win against Leeds, coming off the bench in their 0-0 draw against Leicester, grabbing an assist in a 2-1 win vs. Wolves before starting in their 3-0 defeat to Everton and 1-0 win against Southampton. Olise would get the start in their midweek trip to Newcastle in a 0-0 penalty shootout defeat in the Carabao Cup, and was included in Vieira’s eleven for the weekend trip to West Ham.


Saïd Benrahma would open the scoring after 20 minutes with a rocket of a shot from outside the box, only for Eberechi Eze to rob Thilo Kehrer of possession and set up Wilfried Zaha’s equalizer before halftime. The score was level in East London in the 94th minute as Palace burst into a counterattack with Zaha finding Olise, who received it and casually sauntered towards the edge of the box before working it onto his left foot whilst being tightly marked by Aaron Cresswell and curling a shot past Łukasz Fabiański to secure Palace’s first away win of the season.


It was Olise’s first Premier League goal since New Year’s Day, when he came off the bench after 68 minutes and set up Edouard’s goal 15 minutes later and found the back of the net from a free kick in the 90th minute, but he was unable to come up with another as Palace fell to a 3-2 defeat at home to West Ham. Palace currently sit 10th in the table and will be looking to close out November with a strong performance against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.


Whilst he has struggled for fitness in South London, Michael Olise is set to be one of the few players to benefit from this month’s World Cup. One thing Palace fans will be hoping is that their forward line can make good on Olise’s quality in possession before one of the top six sit up and take note. 


By: Sam Tabuteau

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Bryn Lennon / Getty Images