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Replacing The Irreplaceable

In his debut TTE piece, Louis Roberts looks at how the Royals can compensate for Michael Olise’s departure.

Blackburn Rovers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The past couple of days have been tough for a fan of Reading FC, with a transfer embargo implemented and seeing prized asset Michael Olise leave for a reported measly £8 million to Crystal Palace.

So, how exactly do we replace him? This season we cannot replace the player although we might be able to substitute his contributions from multiple areas within the squad. The EFL Young Player of the Season provided 12 assists and scored seven goals in 44 games, with only Lucas Joao having better stats in the Reading squad last season.

Firstly, to receive £8 million for him is almost criminal despite him having a year left on his deal, and it does show another piece of poor management by the people high up in the boardroom, which has left us in this perilous position.

The transfer embargo that has been placed upon the club due to breach of profit and sustainability rules will also make it difficult for them to find a replacement, with them only being able to sign free agents and loan players.

Some may argue that we have ready-made replacements with Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Yakou Meite. Though the latter of the three, who has picked up an ACL injury, has put up the closest in terms of statistics, he is a completely different player to Olise - with him being a more of a versatile striker rather than the playmaker Olise is.

Ejaria and Swift however do have a lot of similarities to Michael Olise. Ejaria in my opinion is the best dribbler in the league by miles; it feels like he has velcro on his boots. Despite that the one big issue with him is that his goal contributions have not been near a good enough level, with 16 G/A in two seasons - something that Olise beat in the previous season.

John Swift is a different proposition on the other hand. His ability to pick a pass and make something happen out of nothing is second to none, which was proved in the 2019/20 season when he got five goals and 10 assists. That season he attracted interest from Sheffield United. The problem with Swift is injuries. He saw his 2020/21 campaign hampered with injuries and only managed 14 appearances, so this begs the question: IF we can get a fully fit season out of him, could we see similar statistics to Olise?

The club have also been linked to two experienced wingers in recent days: Yannick Bolasie and Junior Hoilett. These two players may provide the spark out wide that could replace Olise. They both can beat a man and whip the ball into the box and provide chances, which is something that we will lack with the departure of Michael Olise.

The club also have the academy system and one player stands out for me - that is Femi Azeez. After making his debut last season in the 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday in March and signing a new one-year deal with the club, he will certainly hope this season is his breakthrough year. He is someone who can play out wide or in the hole behind the striker. After scoring 10 goals last season in the Reading under-23 last season, there is certainly some hope that he can play some part this season.

In my opinion, you cannot replace someone that puts in the number of contributions as Olise does, and especially with a transfer embargo. But now is the time for existing players in the team to step up and perform and produce the stats to fill the void left by Olise. Although it is also a chance for someone from the academy to make themselves known by performing to the ability they can do.