For anyone who had the chance to watch him live when he played for Reading U23 in the Premier League 2 it was obvious that Michael Olise was a special player. Aged just 16 and playing against much older players, his technical ability and his confidence were already outstanding and it seemed a matter of time until he made his first-team debut.
His first match for Reading came aged 17 in the 18/19 season but his presence was almost testimonial. It was in the last 15 games of last season when Olise really established himself in the first team and started to show his potential. But this season he has exploded and become one of the best attacking midfielders in the EFL, having played over 70% of the minutes at the moment of writing and impressing everyone with his fantastic performances.
This progression from the 2001-born France U18 player has attracted the interest of lots of clubs in the Premier League that see him as a very good young prospect, who can develop into an exciting attacking player given some time and patience.
Olise is a very creative number ten who can also play from either wing but enjoys having freedom to roam around the final third. He’s left-footed, so he prefers to drift right but doesn’t do it all the time and we can often see him on the left side too. He moves mostly between the lines and in the half-spaces but every now and then he drops deeper and helps his team’s buildup when needed. He fits perfectly in Reading’s fluid attacking tactics.
As we can see in the previous statistical profile, Olise ranks in the top 50% among the Championship central midfielders in every attacking and creativity metrics we have considered. He’s exceptionally good at assisting his teammates with defence-breaking passes, achieving 0.23 xA per 90, and also getting the ball into dangerous zones with 1.21 through passes and 1.31 smart passes per 90. His 4.98 successful attacking actions per 90 are also in the top 5% of the league.
His technical ability combined with his pace and creativity makes him a great dribbler, almost unstoppable when he’s on his day. Per 90 minutes, Olise attempts 5.74 dribbles, gets involved in 10.49 offensive duels and completes 2.62 progressive runs, all of them being in the top 10% compared to players in his position and league.
His defensive work isn’t great and even if he tries to recover the ball right after losing it, he doesn’t track back very quickly and is still developing his defensive abilities.
Total Football Analysis’s exclusive tool xGold identifies FC Barcelona’s Pedri, RB Leipzig’s Szoboszlai and Crystal Palace’s Ebere Eze as some of his closest statistical matches in the top-5 leagues, giving us a good idea of his potential and playing style.
In the next sections of this scout report, we will go into depth about Olise’s playing style and abilities.
Attacking positioning & progression
When Reading build from the back, Olise usually moves between the lines trying to create passing lanes and getting into the half-spaces to leave space for the wing players to attack. Once Reading have established themselves in the opposition half, Olise moves around the edge of the box and in small pockets of space looking to receive the ball to assist his teammates and create from there, but he can also drop slightly deeper and try to progress into dangerous positions.
One of Olise’s most interesting qualities is his patience, which isn’t normal in a teenager like him. He doesn’t feel the need to be involved and touch the ball all the time and knows when to wait in advanced positions to get the ball in the best possible conditions instead of coming too deep and losing effectiveness in his attacking actions.
He makes good movements behind the rival midfielders and creates passing lanes to help his team progress. When the ball is on the other side of the pitch, Olise often hugs the touchline and creates space for his teammates to play long balls, creating one-vs-one situations against the full-back.
In the next picture, we can see Reading’s right-back cutting inside and Olise making a run into the half-space to receive a pass between the lines. From there, Olise is capable of turning and creating dangerous actions.
When on the ball, Olise is a very agile and mobile player, capable of turning quickly and with great acceleration and change of pace. If we add this to his top-level technique, Olise becomes an outstanding dribbler, capable of taking on players from either wing or progressing with powerful yet accurate runs through the centre of the pitch.
He’s very confident in attacking situations and plays knowing his technical superiority. This leads to some spectacular and very creative pieces of skill which can remind us of players like Neymar. This confidence is boosted when Reading are winning and in those situations Olise likes to provoke his rivals, getting fouled very often (2.13 fouls suffered per 90) and getting his rivals booked. The French wonderkid attempts more dribbles
Excellent technique. Elite first touch, dribbling in tight spaces and quality details under pressure. Very confident in his attacking actions, knows he’s above the rest of the players in terms of quality. When things go well for him he’s capable of spectacular skills, similarly to what Neymar does, and provoking fouls, bookings and the delight of Reading fans. Attempts more dribbles than 98.1% of the Championship central midfielders (5.74 per 90) and completes 56.57% of them.
Even when he’s dribbling in very tight spaces or running with the ball, Olise always plays with his head up and scans his surroundings very often. He has the vision and quality to attract players and pass the ball to free teammates in the exact moment. In this aspect, Olise isn’t one of those players who just look at the ball and try to progress by themselves.
In the next example, we see Olise holding the ball and attracting the attention of two rival defenders. When both of them try to take the ball from him, he drags the ball back and makes a backheel pass into the run of the overlapping right-back, who then has space to progress into the box. His technical quality is outstanding and he feels very comfortable in these difficult situations.
Another example of his ability to attract players and then make the correct pass can be seen in the next screenshot. In a quick transition, Olise takes the ball in his own half and runs towards the goal. When the player on his right tries to stop him and leaves the right wing-back free, Olise makes the pass and his teammates can continue progressing without opposition.
Another standout trait of Olise’s game is how much he values possession, which is also linked to his patience. He doesn’t risk the ball unnecessarily and likes to play short quick passes when he doesn’t see any progressing options. His overall passing accuracy is 81.79%, but his progressive passing accuracy is even higher (82.02%) and he ranks among the top central midfielders in the Championship in his passing success rate for other kinds of creative passes. Also, when he drops deep he shows an impressive passing range, completing 60.98% of the 2.69 long passes he attempts per 90.
In the next play we highlight, we see how Olise can also progress under pressure. He receives the ball in the final third and despite being quickly pressed, he manages to pass the ball to a free teammate on the other side of the pitch. This ability to move the ball quickly relies on his constant scanning as it would be impossible to make that pass without knowing where his teammate is beforehand.
In this section of Olise’s analysis we have covered his ability to dribble with his head up, his patience to get the ball in the best possible situations and his creativity to progress and choose the best passing options. In the next part, we’ll cover how he applies his quality to assisting and scoring.
Creating, assisting and scoring
One of the main reasons why Olise is attracting attention from some of the biggest clubs in the EPL is because he has found the way to translate all his conditions into numbers. At the moment of writing, Olise has scored four goals and assisted another eight in 22 matches. Or what’s the same, he has 0.73 goal involvements per 90, which is an outstanding figure for a player in any position and league in the world.
For a player who moves across different zones around the attacking third, having the ability to assist from a wide range of positions is a key asset and Olise has it. This is surely one of the things clubs find most attractive in him, as he could also fit in more positionally disciplined tactics without losing his effectiveness.
We have already mentioned Olise’s vision and technique. When it comes to assisting, this means he can hit great crosses from both wings, assist with intricate balls from the edge of the box and also play perfectly weighted passes in counterattacks. Olise’s delivery is also excellent from set-pieces and he has grabbed some assists from corner kicks and wide free-kicks too. In the next four examples, we’ll see Olise assisting his teammates in different situations and from different zones.
In the first one, Olise cuts inside and gets into the right half-space, which is one of his favourite zones. He fakes a pass to the left side of the pitch and hides his real intentions until the very last moment, when he puts a perfect pass into his teammate’s run without looking.
In the next one, Olise is on the opposite half-space, which could seem a more difficult zone for a left-footed player. But not for him. Surrounded by five Nottingham Forest players, Olise raises his head and spots the run of his teammate, playing a perfectly weighted and aimed pass between four defenders and leaving him alone against the goalkeeper. This play requires quick thought, excellent vision and a perfect pass, and Olise combines it all.
Next, we see Reading counterattacking. Olise receives the ball from the left wing inside the midfield circle, turns quickly and makes a deep pass with the outside of his left foot. Despite this being a very quick play, Olise had already seen his teammate on the right side, so he knew what to do before receiving the ball. The pass itself is technically outstanding and puts the striker in a one-vs-one situation with the goalkeeper.
Finally, in this last example, we see Olise on the left wing. He receives the ball and before a Brentford player comes to press him, he has already seen the run of his teammate and puts a perfect cross to assist him. For teams wanting Olise to play in wide positions, his crossing ability is a key aspect and he completes 33.96% of his attempted crosses, which is a good proportion.
Last and most important, Olise can also score, which means he’s a complete threat. His finishing is tidy and effective and he can shoot from distance or from volleys, which explains why he has overperformed so far with four goals from 2.68xG. He has also created danger from direct free-kicks, hitting the post on several occasions, so we can expect him to score some in the future. Apart from his finishing, we have already seen that Olise is an excellent dribbler, so he can set up opportunities for himself.
In the following example, Olise is running towards the goal when the last defender starts running at him. He continues his run and with a great change of pace leaves the defender behind and finishes with a strong and accurate low shot to the far post when the goalkeeper comes out.
The next one is an example of his shooting ability from distance and in difficult situations. After a corner-kick in which he was positioned outside the box, the cleared ball fell to Olise’s feet. Instead of controlling and trying to play, he hits a fantastic first-touch volley that goes in very close to the post, leaving the goalkeeper motionless. He has hit some very good volleys and far shots and we can expect him to score some goals like this one every season.
Aged only 19 and in a league as tough as the English Championship, Olise is already one of the best attacking midfielders. He combines excellent physical conditions for his position – pace, mobility and acceleration – with outstanding technical ability and a football IQ rarely seen in teenagers. Reading’s free-flowing attacking football perfectly fits his playing style and he’s responding with goals, assists and excellent performances week in week out.
With a reported release clause of 8 million in his contract, most clubs in the EPL will be tempted to sign him in January, especially considering he’s a homegrown player and still under-21 so he wouldn’t be difficult to fit in the registered squads. Even if he’s very complete, his playing style would fit better in the tactics of attacking teams that can get him the ball in good positions around the box from where he can create and score.
It wouldn’t be surprising either that teams from the German Bundesliga or even big clubs in France attempt his signing as English homegrown players, especially when they have a British passport like Olise, are a very appreciated asset and will continue increasing their value after Brexit.