After an impressive 2022-23 Premier League campaign, Michael Olise has reportedly attracted interest from some of Europe’s big names.
When Michael Olise was taken off injured in France’s 1-0 win over Norway at the UEFA Under-21 European Championship last month, Crystal Palace fans will likely have winced in unison.
The one silver lining of Olise’s hamstring tear, which could reportedly keep him out for the first two months of the season, was that it might have put bigger clubs off trying to lure him from Selhurst Park in this transfer window.
Very little appears to stop Chelsea from signing players though, and that appears to include injuries. Reports emerged on Sunday that Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly and his seemingly unstoppable wallet would try to bring Olise across London to Stamford Bridge, apparently triggering a release clause of around £35 million, though some are sceptical such a clause even exists.
It would be difficult to blame Chelsea for making their move given how impressive Olise has been since arriving at Palace from Reading two years ago, however.
The 21-year-old has become Palace’s chief creator in those two years, providing five assists in the 2021-22 Premier League season, the club’s most despite him starting just 12 of his 26 league outings. Last season – much like Spinal Tap – he turned it up to 11, with his 11 assists only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne (16), Mohamed Salah and Leandro Trossard (both 12) across the whole Premier League.
That made him the first player to manage 10 assists in a single Premier League campaign for Crystal Palace, ahead of Wayne Routledge in 2004-05 and Wilfried Zaha in 2016-17, both of whom recorded nine.
Palace’s continued overreliance on Zaha until recently had been a problem, but by the end of last season, Olise – along with Eberechi Eze – was showing there is very much life after Zaha, which is just as well now the 30-year-old has left for Galatasaray.
This was shown in Palace’s attacking sequence involvements in the Premier League last season, where Eze led with 134, followed by Olise on 120. Both were ahead of Zaha’s 117.
Olise created 72 chances overall in the Premier League, 15 more than the Palace player with the next most (Eze – 57), while of players who played at least 20 games across the league, only De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes, Kieran Trippier, Allan Saint-Maximin, James Maddison and Riyad Mahrez recorded more chances created per 90 than his 2.4.
Most of Olise’s chances created came from crosses, with only Trippier (396) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (252) attempting more than his 243 in the Premier League last season, though most of those were from set-pieces as nine players made more open-play crosses than his 97.
His numbers were not just impressive in the confines of the Premier League. Bukayo Saka (75) was the only other player aged 21 or under to create as many chances as Olise’s 72 across Europe’s top five leagues, while the Arsenal man was also the only player in that age bracket to match his 11 assists. It wasn’t just set-piece danger either, as eight of Olise’s assists came from open play.
That level of promise had been on show the year before as well. His eight assists in all competitions in the 2021-22 season were the joint-most of any Premier League player aged 21 or under, alongside Manchester City’s Phil Foden.
Speaking of which, as well as Chelsea, Man City have also been linked with a move for Olise. This arguably makes even more sense than the Chelsea link given the reported imminent exit of Mahrez from the Etihad Stadium.
The Algerian was a big part of City’s run in the second half of the 2022-23 season that ended with the treble. His 10 Premier League assists after the World Cup was more than anyone, and he was the only player to register more than Olise (eight).
Pep Guardiola will be keen to replace Mahrez should his move to Al-Ahli go through, and links have also appeared with Lyon’s Bradley Barcola, though Cole Palmer could also make an argument that his time should be now after impressing for England U21s as they won the European Championship earlier this summer.
Olise would make sense as a replacement on the face of it, though. There was just 0.04 difference between he and Mahrez in terms of chances created per 90 last season, while Olise’s 3.2 open-play crosses per 90 compared to Mahrez’s 1.8 would, in theory, be music to the ears of Erling Haaland.
One area Olise would need to improve should he get a move to a bigger club – and Palace would argue he needs to improve even if he stays – is his goals output. For all his attacking menace, Olise managed just two goals in 37 league appearances last season. He tended to attempt shots with low expected goals (xG) value, racking up just 3.0 xG from 51 efforts at an average of just 0.06 xG per shot. That meant he would have had to take roughly 17 shots for every goal scored.
By comparison, from non-penalty shots, Mahrez scored four goals from 42 attempts at an average of 0.11 xG per shot last season.
This is of course something Olise can work on and will almost certainly improve, probably in terms of his decision-making as much as his execution. It’s not as if he’s bad at shooting, as Manchester United found in the dying minutes of their draw at Crystal Palace in January. Olise’s fantastic 91st-minute free-kick and subsequent deadpan celebration showed the nerves of a young man who can fill his veins with ice in big moments.
Olise’s defensive work is impressive for a young player as well. Compared to other wingers and forwards, only six players in Europe’s top five leagues made more than his 58 tackles, while only seven made more than his 26 interceptions.
Of all players in the league, only seven recorded more pressures than Olise’s 855, and though he managed just 22 high turnovers (89th in the league), only Tyrick Mitchell (495) made more than his 481 sprints for Palace last season, showing that Olise’s work rate is there. It still needs to be honed a bit in order to win the ball back in a high press, but Palace don’t particularly focus on that as a tactic anyway, especially under Roy Hodgson. Only six Premier League teams recorded fewer than Palace’s 70 high turnovers after Hodgson’s return in late March.
Back to his attacking play, and while he has been highly rated for much of his time in the Premier League, you could argue Olise’s real breakout moment came towards the end of last season when he and his teammates tore Leeds United to shreds at Elland Road in a phenomenal second half.
After Marc Guéhi had equalised following Patrick Bamford’s opener, Hodgson’s men went on the rampage in the second half, scoring four more goals without reply to secure a 5-1 victory. At the age of 21 years and 118 days, Olise’s three open-play assists in the space of 16 second-half minutes that afternoon made him the youngest player in Premier League history to achieve that feat in a single game. He was also one of only four players to register three assists in one game in England’s top flight last season, along with Roberto Firmino, Trossard and Salah.
Having won Crystal Palace’s Players’ Player of the Season award for 2022-23, Olise’s star is on the rise and the club will always have known that trajectory would take him away from Selhurst Park at some point. They will hope his injury puts off the vultures for the time being, but should Chelsea, Man City or someone else decide to pull the trigger now, they will have snared themselves one of the brighter young prospects in European football.
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