CREDITS TO GOONERLOVER66
Who says that the Manchester United academy is dead and buried? Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is one of the many graduates of the aforementioned academy who have failed to pierce into the first team squad of Manchester United, and that was certainly not through lack of ability or the wrong attitude but because United simply had too many players ahead of Ebanks-Blake and it was inevitable that they had to let him go. Like his former partner Giuseppe Rossi, Ebanks-Blake has come into prominence elsewhere and has similarly exploded onto the football scene that has left many excited about where his future lies for both club and country. His potential and ability has always been quite obvious, it may surprise some MLS fans but Ebanks-Blake's form at Manchester United made Kenny Cooper look like a second-rate striker. He left the Manchester United academy in 2006, despite a wonderful record with the reserves and a successful loan in Belgium, and was snapped up by Plymouth Argyle for a fee of Â£200,000 (potentially rising higher depending on how successful he would be) and didn't make the most immediate effect, scoring most of his goals towards the end of his first season at Plymouth Argyle. The second season proved to be far better and he kicked it off with 11 league goals before New Years Eve and by this point he had made himself a firm favourite with the Pilgrims, for them nothing could go wrong! That is, until January came around. In January 2008, Plymouth Argyle saw a mass exodus of first-team talent of which few teams worldwide had ever experienced. Ãkos BuzsÃ¡ky, David Norris, Barry Hayles and Dan Gosling all left Plymouth Argyle in that transfer period and alas so did our protagonist, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, and he moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers to replace Freddy Eastwood and the mercurial Jay Bothroyd, who both could not gel with the team and experienced a severe goal-scoring drought within the period. Ebanks-Blakeâ€™s transfer was certainly not futile and he started his career at Wolves in the same vein that he ended his Plymouth Argyle career, scoring 7 goals in his first 8 starts and ended the season with 23 goals to his name (accrued from his Plymouth Argyle goals) and the Golden Boot for the Championship. Surely he couldnâ€™t follow up on a such a season, could he? Well, with the season 13 games strong, Ebanks-Blake had already scored 9 times. Fast forward to....now and youâ€™ll find that Ebanks-Blake has scored 25 goals, has won the Championship Player of the Year award and scored the goal that helped Wolves achieve automatic promotion! He maintained a level of consistency throughout the season so high that, even when the rest of the Wolves team tapered off, our man Sylvan was still scoring prolifically. At this point in an article I tend to compare the player to another, don't I? In this case, I think that the attributes that Ebanks-Blake has makes in the comparison rather easy. He has, in my mind, a similar playing style and traits to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink; Strong, decent turn of pace, powerful shooting, frequently attacking, can make something out of nothing, fat arse. Itâ€™s all there!
Ebanks-Blakeâ€™s positioning is not an area of his that I rate highly. Although a prominent and prolific goal-scorer who does score a lot of goals within the opposition box, it is not his positioning that gets him into these scoring positions. He gets into these positions mostly due to the long-balls from the Wolves midfield in which Ebanks-Blake runs as the ball is being played, using his immense strength and pace to get past the opposition defenders, and then simply slams the ball into the net. Or where he makes a late, but well-timed run, from behind the defender to score. Itâ€™s quite a good variety of tactics but they can only truly be adopted at a level in which the opposing defenders have comparatively poor positional sense. And from his style of play we can see that he doesnâ€™t show the same sort of positioning ability as the likes of James Beattie and Kevin Phillips have shown at this level (although both have them have shown decent positioning in the top-flight too). Heck, in his Manchester United days this was one of the aspects in which Giuseppe Rossi was the more accomplished.
Ebanks-Blake has the type of physique that draws people to criticise him for being overweight and I think it shows a little bit in his overall stamina. He is very much a short-burst player in the runs that he makes, with or without the ball, and is not constantly involved in build-up play. However, when he appears, he certainly makes his presence felt. As I have mentioned before, and will do throughout the analysis, his immense strength is arguably the biggest contributory factor towards his goal-scoring. He brushes defenders aside with such ease, and with a good level of pace he has been nigh on unstoppable in the Championship. It is also a highly beneficial area to his aerial ability and is a real pain for defenders, as he backs into them after seemingly allowing them free jumps, regardless of how strong they are. It is likely that heâ€™ll surprise quite a few Premier League defenders (Well, those who havenâ€™t paid attention to the potential new competition) with his strength because - letâ€™s face it - regardless of his build, his rather diminutive height does not give the impression of oxen-like strength.
It's rather funny, actually. He's another a player who shows a very good level of acceleration, and whilst his top speed may not show the eye-popping level of pace as the likes of Kabba, he can be considered a pacy player. He is very much a short-burst player in the runs that he makes, with or without the ball, and this in accumulation to his immense strength helps him to burst past the opposition defender when a ball comes lofted over the top or when the ball is about to come into the box via a cross. He scored a goal against Colchester United last season that epitomised the sheer burst of pace that he does possess.
As previously mentioned, he's built like an oxen and possesses an amazing physical strength. And yet he has a nimbility in his movements and actions that makes marking him problematic, and helps him to evade so many defenders. Although he maintains a certain rigidness in his dribbling that is solely due to other factors about him that make it unnecessary for him to twist-and-turn around the opposition, he simply barges past the opposition with a titillating mixture of explosive pace and a powerhouse physique. However if you look at his movement in the opposition box or in areas surrounding the opposition box, you see a completely different creature. He turns past players with great ease with a slick, slippery motion that can dumbfound a Championship defence, leading to understandable comparisons with Andy Cole and, by some, Thierry Henry in this specific area.
Not a lot of people seem to notice this trait of his, but when he does show the accuracy he possesses in his weaker foot you can affirm your knowledge of him having an all-round ability. There are numerous examples of the skill and power in his left foot, one of the best ones would be the second of his two goals against Charlton last season (The Goal of the Season goal) and there are countless others that do indeed justify this sort of valuation. Actually, this is an area in which he is quite comparable to Sebastian Boenisch at Werder Bremen and slots in quite nicely with that discussion.
Defence & Mentality
Quite a fault by comparison to his other stats, Ebanks-Blakeâ€™s tendency to come back and defend is rather low in relation to the average striker. He will, more often than not, linger in the position he was previously even when heâ€™s showing no signs of fatigue. I find it rather odd that Wolves, last season, had a selection of strikers who wouldnâ€™t track back, the mercurial gypsy Freddy Eastwood being one of them. I would say that he has a higher tendency to track back than the likes of Ronaldo and Adriano, thatâ€™s for certain, but he doesnâ€™t match up to the average striker in terms of helping out when the attack turns to defence. Now when it comes to Mentality, we have an interesting predicament with Ebanks-Blake. Sylvan has a good work-rate and possesses a good level of determination, and as we have mentioned previously; he was one of the few Wolves players to keep their head when they went through a rough patch of form. This seems odd because, surely, a hard-working player must inevitably track back, right? And yet Ebanks-Blake tends to only show a fairly decent work-rate in the opposition half without tracking back, itâ€™s remarkably odd but there are quite a lot of strikers like that; think Amr Zaki before he went off form! Sadly this subsequently diminishes the potential Mentality that one could give him because, as my old friend Tuomas adequately put it, we have to consider the effect that Mentality has in relation with the rest of the Holy 4. Too high a Mentality is going to help him to track back, more so than he currently does and so we have to put something of a cap on how high a Mentality value he can receive. Anyway, that doesnâ€™t really matter. His determination and work-rate can be quite hit-and-miss at times, so that effectively limits what you can give him.
Quite a controversial area here, and Iâ€™m bound to have some-one questioning my decision here but I have not given Ebanks-Blake the Penalties special ability. I do understand that he does score quite a lot of penalties, and has currently scored 6 penalties this season. But letâ€™s not forget that he has also missed 2 (against Coventry and Charlton), whereas someone like David Villa has scored every penalty he has been given this season (8 to be precise) and he is clearly someone that warrants the star. Moreover, I canâ€™t see what would make Sylvan more warranting of the star than someone like Ruud Van Nistelrooy (who delperio didnâ€™t give the star to). Itâ€™s not as if heâ€™s going to be poor at penalties without the star, just look at his shooting stats and you can guess that he will score a lot of penalties but will indeed miss some, as he does in reality.