Patrick Vieira wants Michael Olise to stake claim for starting spot

Patrick Vieira has revealed Crystal Palace youngster Michael Olise is set for more minutes during the second half of the season.

The 20-year-old has been carefully managed since a summer switch from Reading where his displays earned him the 2020-21 Sky Bet Championship Young Player of the Season award.

Olise produced an impressive cameo in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at home to West Ham firstly assisting Odsonne Edouard before grabbing his second goal for the club with a free-kick late on.

While it was the attacker’s 13th appearance of the campaign, only two have been starts and yet his record of a goal or assist every 63 minutes is the best in the Premier League this season of players who have played at least 300 minutes.

Palace are expected to lose Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha for the next month due to their involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations and the London-born playmaker is primed for more game-time.

“It will be up to Michael,” Vieira said. “He will have the space obviously with Jordan and Wilfried going to internationals and it will be up to him to show how good he is and to take his chances.

“The plan is to work with him and to make him progress but against West Ham he showed all his talent.

“Hopefully the plan is for him to play more games in the second half of the season but the number of games he will play will be up to him and what he shows in training.”

What made Olise’s impact on New Year’s Day more notable was the fact he had not played for two weeks and barely trained during that period but still managed to run rings around Arthur Masuaku.

Eagles boss Vieira was delighted with the impact of the former Reading ace and the challenge for both manager and player now is to ensure it is shown on a more frequent basis.

He said: “Michael is a top, young player with a lot of talent. He didn’t do any training with the team in the last 10 days, so he just came in and was straight in the squad.

“It was a gamble for us because we didn’t know how he was physically but when you are young like that, it showed physically he was okay and I was really pleased with the way he came into the game.

“He created chances, created situations and scored a goal. He showed in the space of 20 minutes his quality and that is really good for the football club.”

Vieira was less forthcoming about the reasons behind Cheikhou Kouyate and Zaha being absent from the squad to face West Ham.

The club have been consistent in their approach of not revealing the identity of players who have Covid-19 but if the duo have contracted the virus it could put their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts on January 9, in doubt.

“I don’t know, I don’t have the answer,” Vieira replied when asked if Zaha and Kouyate would link up with their respective countries as planned.

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