Michael Olise, breaking through

Patrick Carter highlights the burgeoning skillset of Reading's Michael Olise, a teenager who's set to have a big breakthrough season in the Championship.

Credit: Jon Hobley / Getty Images

In the eyes of many fans, Reading has an academy with a reputation for being two things: successful and profligate.


Since its inception in 1999, the academy has provided a steady stream of talent for the senior side, with success stories including Gylfi Sigurðsson, Shane Long and Michael Hector.


Like many academies though, its history is littered with players who made few or no appearances for the first team before slipping through the club’s fingers to forge enviable careers elsewhere.


Members of this not-so-exclusive club include Jack Stacey at AFC Bournemouth, QPR centre-back Rob Dickie, Brentford ball-carrier Shandon Baptiste, and even Charlie Austin. Reading hope that Michael Olise will be categorised as a success story.


Aged 18, Olise is one of the brightest prospects in a youthful Reading side. Primarily an attacking midfielder who can play on either side or through the middle, he occasionally drops deeper into central midfield when required.


After breaking into the first-team last season under José Gomes and Mark Bowen, the French-English dual national now looks to be a key part of new coach Veljko Paunović’s front line.


Olise has started every league match this season, and scored his first senior goal in the home win against Barnsley an impressive volley from 25 yards.


Reading’s number seven has two appearances for France under-18s, while his brother, Richard, is an England youth international.


Both player and club have made a flying start to the Championship season under Paunović, winning all of their first four matches and sit level on points with Bristol City at the top of the table.


Paunović has experience in extracting the most from young players, coaching Serbia to the 2015 Under-20 World Cup title. With a host of young talent in and around the squad, Olise and his fellow academy graduates should be in good hands.


There's every reason to be positive about Olise’s statistical output from this season so far.


Four games is a small sample size and it would be premature to use these numbers as evidence of more than just a good run of form, but they certainly showcase what the player is capable of.


Among his Reading team-mates this season, Olise has assisted the most shots, won the second-most fouls and attempted the joint-most tackles, a sign that he has taken to Paunović's pressing style.


You can see where those chances come from in how Olise plays. He has an impressive pass completion rate of 86% and an excellent long pass completion rate of 79%. His passing has been one of Reading's primary routes to goal this season.


Olise demonstrated impressive vision to pick out passes both short and long in Reading's recent 2-0 win over Barnsley, where he was exceptional in demonstrating his value both at the top of midfield and in a deeper areas.


Early on in the match he is passed the ball by Yakou Méïté on the half way line, and with one touch plays the ball perfectly into the run of John Swift, who is called for offside.

Then, in the second-half, Olise finds himself in space on the edge of the attacking third. With the ball at his feet he sees another Swift run. His pass beats three defenders and eventually results in the corner from which Reading score their first goal.

Olise’s accuracy is evident to the coach, who has given him responsibility for a number of Reading’s corners this season.


It was one of these that yielded the first of the player’s two assists this campaign. He has also been entrusted with deep free-kicks, making the most of this by securing his second assist with a whipped ball into the box in the win against Cardiff.


Olise doesn't dribble as often as those with a specific brief to do so, but when he does, he does it well, completing 62% of his dribbles since the start of the 2019/20 season.


That is largely down to his ability with the ball at his feet, where he has the skill and composure to bemuse defenders.


If he can't beat them, he often has the strength to hold them off long enough to win a foul. Outside of Ovie Ejaria, these are attributes that have been sorely lacking in this Reading squad.


Olise is promising but is far from the finished article currently – which is entirely expected, given his age and relative lack of minutes.


If he's going to be a positive defensive presence in the final third, then he needs to get better at it.


His pressing succeeds in pressuring opponents, forcing them into precarious situations and rarely gives up fouls, but he does certainly still tackle like an inexperienced winger.


The value of his defending lies in shutting down his opponents’ options and forcing them into mistakes rather than winning the ball for himself with a tackle.


For example, back in the Barnsley match, Olise is pressuring the Barnsley back-line when a poor touch from Mads Andersen sparks a burst of energy from the teenager.


Covering ground in no time to reach the ball first and knock it forward, Andersen is forced to cut him down and take a yellow card.

He also needs to develop into more of a goal threat, and there are signs of progress in this regard. Despite scoring that volley from outside the area, it wasn't actually that well hit, and that is a recurring feature when Olise finds himself in a shooting position.


His excellent ability to beat players can get the attacker into scenarios which he fails to make the most of. Recent games have shown an ability to shoot with more power, but unfortunately this has come at the expense of accuracy.


This should worry Reading, who are not shooting nearly enough to stay at the top end of the table and need to take every chance they can get their hands on.


Paunović's team have had 29 shots so far this season, the fewest in the Championship and even fewer than Wycombe, who have yet to score a single goal.


Still, Olise’s confidence is growing by the match and games behind closed doors are perhaps the perfect place to develop this side of his game.


With two years left on his contract, Olise looks unlikely to be leaving the Madejski Stadium any time soon – but if he continues on his current trajectory it won't be too long until he will be looking to play at higher levels.


After their strongest start to a season for 35 years, Reading fans will be hoping he'll be playing at higher levels with his current club.

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