On the basis of the Premier League table alone, the improvement at Crystal Palace this season has been incremental. While the Eagles finished 14th last season, comfortably avoiding any threat of relegation, they are now up to 11th. This, however, doesn’t quite reveal the full scale of the revolution taking place at Selhurst Park. The difference in the way Palace are playing under new manager Patrick Vieira and how they played under Roy Hodgson is stark. Indeed, the Eagles are a more modern and dynamic side than they have been in years with a number of young players bursting on to the scene at the club. Michael Olise is the latest.
Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi and Odsonne Edouard have all made an impact for Palace this season with Eberechi Eze set to join this core of youngsters at the club once he returns from a long-term injury. Olise hasn’t received as much game time as the aforementioned teammates but Saturday’s match against West Ham demonstrated his promise.
Introduced off the bench for the final 22 minutes at the London Stadium, Michael Olise changed the dynamic of the contest, first assisting Edouard and then scoring a second himself to give the away team hope of a comeback. There was to be no equaliser as Palace suffered a 3-2 defeat, but the 20-year-old had caught the eye.
Olise’s emergence might just have come at the right time for Crystal Palace who will see Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha leave for the Africa Cup of Nations later this month. The 20-year-old will be a good option for Vieira on the right side of his attack and will mitigate the impact of losing two key performers for a crucial stage of the season.
“It will be up to him,” Vieira responded when asked whether this was Olise’s opportunity to make himself a first team starter over the coming weeks. “He will have the space obviously with Jordan and Wilf going to internationals and it will be up to him to show how good he is and to take his chances.
“Obviously the plan is to work with him to help him progress. I think against West Ham he showed all his talent. But hopefully and the plan is for him to play more games in the second half of the season. But the number of games that he will play will be up to him about how and what he will show in training.”
Signed from Reading for a reported fee of just over £8m in the summer transfer window, Michael Olise has been widely seen as one of the most exciting young talents in English football. Crystal Palace are clearly counting on the 20-year-old, who has represented France at U18 level, on being a key figure for them at some point but Olise might be ready for stardom now. The future may be here already.
Vieira has changed the environment at Selhurst Park. While Crystal Palace were previously known for a stodgy style of play that wasn’t exactly conducive to the harnessing of young players, there has now been a fundamental change in approach. Without this, it’s not guaranteed that Olise, for all his talent, would have risen to the surface as quickly as he has.
Of course, it is now up to Michael Olise to make the most of the opportunity he is likely to receive early in 2022. His second half substitute performance against West Ham mustn’t be a flash in the pan. He must find some consistency to add to his obvious brilliance. By the time Ayew and Zaha return from AFCON, they could find Palace have a new star.
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