Throughout most games without fail, I’m left with the same thought. How on earth is Michael Olise only 18 years old?
The talent that the young midfielder possesses despite his age is quite remarkable. The way he effortlessly glides around the pitch exuberating such confidence is a sight to behold. His skill, vision and passing ability is a joy to watch.
The key flaw that was noticeable in Olise’s game last season was his lack of end product, as he registered just one assist in 19 Championship appearances. However he has put that right with two goals and five assists so far this campaign.
They have been of genuine quality too, with his first goal in Reading colours being a sweetly struck first time volley from outside of the area against Barnsley. Of course the real highlights have been his recent assists against Millwall and Bristol City, which were quite frankly illegal for someone of his age.
Having come on as a half-time substitute against Millwall, he played a beautiful, clipped ball first time to set up Lucas Joao’s equaliser, taking out the whole Lions defence in one crisp motion. That earned him a start three days later against Bristol City, when his outside of the boot through ball to Yakou Meite was inch-perfect.
Both passes had little room for error and Olise executed them perfectly.
His performances in those two games should prove once and for all that he should be Reading’s go to number 10 at the moment and not Alfa Semedo, who had been preferred in that role in previous matches.
The Guinea-Bissau international is a decent option for Reading to have in the team, but he is a defensive midfielder by trade and therefore lacks the creativity to confidently fulfil the number 10 role.
Veljko Paunovic is right to be cautious with Olise though.
It is worth stressing again that he is only a teenager and still developing – too much expectation should not be placed on his shoulders, while he is at risk of simply burning out if he plays every single game in the Championship’s hectic fixture schedule.
Nonetheless, you are still left with a nagging feeling that without Olise in the team, Reading lack a level of creativity, particularly with John Swift currently out injured.
When Swift does return from the sidelines in the new year though, Paunovic will certainly be left with a selection dilemma. Despite the former Chelsea man’s undoubted quality, he has rarely been missed over the last three months, mostly because of the impact of Olise.
It raises the question over whether Reading could cash in on Swift – a player who was in high demand in the summer but someone with a rather patchy injury record. In Olise, the Royals have a ready-made replacement who is now proven in the Championship.
The teenager himself has been linked with a move away, with the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all interested if reports are to be believed.
It is almost inevitable that Olise will at some point depart Berkshire, like another promising young number 10 before him, Gylfi Sigurdsson, also did. We should enjoy his talent while it lasts.
By Olly Allen