Can Michael Olise fill the void at Crystal Palace should pending free agent Wilfried Zaha leave?

2MCTAG0 London, England, 21st January 2023. Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Picture credit should read: Paul Terry / Sportimage

Wilfried Zaha appears destined to leave Crystal Palace after news arose this week that three clubs from Saudi Arabia have outlined their intentions to sign the forward this summer.

AC Milan have also sounded out the Ivorian international about a potential move to Serie A. Talks between Zaha and Palace over a contract extension have failed to gather any traction, with his current deal set to expire at the end of June.

Zaha, in his 12th season as a Palace player after re-signing from Manchester United in 2015, has faced time on the sidelines in recent weeks with a hamstring issue. He was injured in the second half between Crystal Palace and Newcastle last month.

The situation has caused selection headaches for Palace manager Patrick Vieira, but has given both himself and the club's fans a glimpse into what life will be like if Zaha does depart on a free transfer. 

Zaha is the team's highest Premier League goalscorer with 67 and is third in all-time appearances for the club. Replacing him will be no easy task, but does the answer lie within their current squad or is there a need to spend big on a transfer target elsewhere?

The Future

Crystal Palace winger Michael Olise
Credit: UK Sports Pics Ltd/Alamy Live News

By signing Michael Olise from Reading in 2021, the club continued to recruit some of the brightest young talent in the EFL after Eberechi Eze had moved to Selhurst Park the previous summer from Queens Park Rangers.

While they play on opposite sides of the pitch, Olise has regularly caught the eye this season. Given Zaha's record of terrorizing defenses during the last decade in the Premier League, there is no better role model to follow, so let's look at how the two have graded.

Ball carries/Dribbles

Wilfried Zaha, 75.3 (13/113); Michael Olise, 76.6 (12/113)

Comparing Olise to Zaha, the data suggests he can replicate similar numbers. With an average carry grade of 76.6 for the season, Olise outperforms Zaha's grade of 75.3. Olise ranks 12th for his position, while Zaha sits one spot below him in 13th.

As for completed dribbles, Zaha ranks 1st with 50, while Olise ranks 2nd with 45. Palace fans should be encouraged that Olise is producing at the same level as Zaha at such a young age.


Wilfried Zaha, 73.9 (31/100); Michael Olise 74.6 (25/100)

Zaha and Olise's shooting grades are similar, with Zaha's at 73.9 and Olise's at 74.6. While Zaha has scored more goals this season (6) than Olise (2), the quality of his goals indicate his potential for the future. He demonstrated this in January when he scored a free kick in the last minute against high-flying Manchester United to rescue a point for Palace.


Wilfried Zaha, 63.7 (54/103); Michael Olise 74.3 (11/103)

As for crossing, Olise has an advantage with a grade of 74.3, while Zaha's grade is 63.7. It was evident last weekend when he played a pinpoint cross into the path of Eze to score against Brentford. As a result, Olise is ranked 11th among his positional peers in the league.


Wilfried Zaha, 77.1 (11/113); Michael Olise 70.1 (32/113)

In terms of passing, Zaha edges him out with a grade of 77.1, ranking 11th in his position. Olise, with a grade of 70.1, ranks 32nd.

Losing a club legend and a local hero would be difficult to replace. But in their search for a new talisman, Palace may need to look closer to home.

All Featured Tools

Unlock the 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit, with League Sync, Live Draft Assistant, PFF Grades & Data Platform that powers all 32 Pro Teams

$31 Draft Kit Fee + $8.99/mo
$89.88/yr + FREE Draft Kit