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Eberechi Eze And Michael Olise Have Meant Everything To Crystal Palace

Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on May 6, 2024 in London, United Kingdom.
Photo Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Outside of a handful of lucky and unlucky (though still kind of lucky) teams that find themselves chasing dreams or fleeing nightmares this time of year, the final couple weeks of a league season tend to be uneventful. Once your fate is sealed in the large stretch of the table where a spot or two up or down doesn't really make much of a difference, there's not much to play for. Which is to say, nobody, fans and players alike, really gives a shit anymore.

In most respects, you'd imagine Crystal Palace would be one of those teams halfheartedly playing out the string of the Premier League season. The Eagles' campaign hasn't been a particularly good one, but the last time their top-flight survival looked even somewhat threatened was back on April 6, when a 4-2 home loss against Manchester City had them only five points above the drop zone. A week later Palace beat Liverpool in Anfield, and by doing so put to bed any real concerns about relegation.

But if the Liverpool win was in one sense the end of Crystal Palace's season in tangible terms, it was in another sense a belated beginning. The match at Anfield was only the fourth time Palace's starting lineup included both of its two best players, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, and was the first time doing so under manager Oliver Glasner, who'd taken over for Roy Hodgson in February. Armed with those two burgeoning stars, inside a new tactical setup expertly designed to get the best out of both of them, the Eagles have been soaring during the run-in. These ostensibly meaningless matches at the end of the season have been some of the most exciting and encouraging Palace matches in years.

Palace has won five of its last six outings going back to the Liverpool game, which accounts for nearly half of the 12 matches the team has won all season. More important than the points those wins have earned—again, Palace has been safe from relegation and outside of contention for the European places for a good while now—have been the performances, especially from the star duo. Olise and Eze have started four of those six matches together, and the only game one of them was fully absent for was the one time the team failed to win. The two have combined for seven goals and three assists during that stretch. Yet even those eye-popping numbers can't encapsulate how fucking cool it is to see these two guys ball.

That's the thing about Eze and Olise; even more than good, which both of them are, they are ridiculously, shudderingly cool. In broad strokes they are similar players—flashy attacking midfielders who crave the ball, love to dribble at any and everyone, thrive when free to roam and combine with teammates, can pick a pass, and can score. There are differences—Eze is more of a midfielder while Olise is more of a forward; Eze is more direct, more vertical, more focused on wreaking immediate havoc once the ball comes into his feet, while Olise is more liable to play with tempos, to speed plays up but also slow them down, looking not only to inflict damage but also to exert control; the foundation of Eze's game is dribbling while Olise's starts with his passing. All of those shared and divergent traits contribute to making them such staggering talents, two of the Premier League's very best players outside of whatever we're calling the super-rich clubs these days. What makes them so exquisite and effective as teammates is how they relate to the game in the same way, not as separate executors of pre-designed plays, but rather as collaborators trying to create something cool together.

The product of a duo like this is, yes, goals and wins, but even more so beautiful sequences that display the unmistakable imprint of each of their contributions. Nobody in England is playing more attractive soccer than Palace right now, and I'm certain Palace fans' memories will forever be marked by the monuments Olise and Eze have spent the last month making together. The team goals these guys come up with are simply gorgeous. Here's one from this past weekend's 3-1 away win over Wolverhampton:

Here's one from the week prior, a memorable 4-0 home demolition of Manchester United:

Here's probably the pick of the litter, from the 1-0 Liverpool win that started it all:

Crystal Palace is a completely different team when Olise and Eze are in the lineup. In the eight matches in which both have started, the Eagles have won six and have scored about 2.6 goals per game. That's the same number of wins as Palace has mustered in its other 29 league matches, where it's averaged about one goal a game. As unfortunate as it is that the pair has only suited up together eight times all season (curse you, injuries!), Palace fans can be thankful to witness this late-season run in all its considerable glory, even if the table says most of it doesn't matter.

Fans of the club will need to savor all this while it lasts, which likely won't be for very long. Aside from delighting connoisseurs of well-played soccer, what the recent Olise-Eze show has done is tantalize every rich club with the prospect of acquiring such big talents currently employed by such a plunderable club. The Eagles will probably lose at least one of their two talismans in the offseason, and could very well lose both. Olise, as the younger player (he's 22, three-and-a-half years younger than Eze) and the one with the higher upside, is practically a lock for a move this summer. (All I ask is that we keep him out of Manchester.) Eze extended his contract with the club this season, but I doubt that would be a serious impediment should one of the big boys come knocking. If there's any bitterness to go with the sweetness of this past month, it's in how little of it Palace fans have gotten to see this season and how little of it remains.

Crystal Palace closes its season this Sunday, playing host to Aston Villa. Olise and Eze are both sure to start. It is sure to be a show. It might be the last one. The presence of Olise and Eze alone is enough to ensure that it'll be worth watching, chock full of the very stuff that makes this sport wonderful, the stuff that really "means" something.

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