Things have been moving at a rapid pace for young Welshman David Brooks this season. At 21 years of age, who could have imagined that only a year on from signing a contract extension with Sheffield United in the Championship, Brooks would be in the running for individual awards within a flourishing Premier League side in AFC Bournemouth?
Brooks signed for Bournemouth from Sheffield United in July 2018 for £11.5m, giving himself a full pre-season with the club and jump-starting his career on the South Coast by seamlessly integrating into a hard-working squad who were fresh off the back of a 12th place finish in England’s top flight.
Brooks has proven to be incredible value considering the farcical nature of the football transfer market today. It’s no secret that the amount of cash generated by the commercial side of football and the gargantuan transfer fees paid for star players has created a bubble within the market that is just dying to burst. As a result, clubs are paying extremely inflated prices for often varying returns on their investment.
Take for example the Cherries £15m acquisition of Leganes defender, Diego Rico, who has failed to prove his worth to the first team and overtake the starting position held by Charlie Daniels. One could even simply look at the plethora of transfers brought in by Fulham and their correspondingly poor position in the league table. The financial incentives of staying up have created a frantic mindset among owners and board members alike who are desperate for Premier League survival.
Yet, despite football’s tendency to favour proven players, the fantastic scouting staff for Bournemouth believed they had someone who ticks all the boxes to fit into Eddie Howe’s organised and disciplined side; without breaking the bank and it seems they have found a gem.
Brooks is a left-footed playmaker whose versatility and unpredictability on the ball has been a driving force in the beautiful football played by Bournemouth this season. Brooks made his debut as a wide right midfielder in a 4-4-1-1, which has been his regular position throughout the season, although he has occasionally slotted in just behind the striker when there are injuries to Callum Wilson or Josh King.
Beating established players like Junior Stanislas and Jordon Ibe for a place in the XI, Brooks’ performances early in the season were too good to justify dropping him to the bench. He played a pivotal role in the Cherries’ best start to a top-flight campaign, securing 20 points from their first 10 games, with Brooks starting nine out of 10 and finding the back of the net three times.
Brooks’ precision and creativity in the final third along with his willingness to track back has seen him be involved in 25 games across all competitions for Bournemouth this season, providing six goals and four assists. Most importantly, however, has been his link-up play with the rest of the front line in pushing the ball up the pitch quickly and creating chances; sometimes seemingly telepathically laying the ball off for a trailing teammate to have a shot on goal or meeting a perfectly timed run with a pinpoint through ball behind the opposing back line.
Brooks’ lanky structure is beautifully at odds with how majestically he moves on the ball too; his long strides and quick footwork make it a nightmare for any defender to mimic his movement and anticipate what’s to come. He has the ability to cut in on his left foot, create a yard of space and have a quick pop at goal, usually applying a great deal of swerve and testing the keeper’s concentration. All but one of Brooks’ goals this season have come from left-footed efforts, but from varying positions all around the final third.
He’s played an important role defensively as well – most recently in the 4-0 defeat of Chelsea. Brooks and King kept heavy pressure on the deep-lying playmaker, Jorginho, making it incredibly difficult for Chelsea to play out of the back through the Italian. Eddie Howe spoke about Brooks’ after netting a brace and helping the team keep a clean sheet in a wonderful 2-0 performance against Brighton, saying: “He buys into the team ethic and the defensive component of the game. The tactical understanding of how we play, he has grasped very quickly so full credit to him for that.”
Brooks’ CV is constantly evolving as well, making his first appearance for the Wales senior team in November 2017 as a substitute in a 2-0 loss to France. Since then he’s played an important part in Wales’ Nations League campaign, helping them to remain in League B of the competition ahead of a relegated Republic of Ireland. He’ll also undoubtedly be an important part of the Euro 2020 qualification campaign that’s set to begin in March.
Having already won Bournemouth’s December Player of the Month, Brooks will have plenty of competition when it comes to handing out the individual accolades at the Cherries annual player awards. Callum Wilson, Josh King and Ryan Fraser are all putting in convincing performances thus far, not to mention Nathan Ake who was last years Supporter’s and Player’s Player of the season.
But what’s to come next for the 21-year-old starlet? It wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear Brooks become the topic of transfer rumors following this season along with Ake and Wilson. Bournemouth will do well to resist the mad money floating around the league these days and hold on to their best players. Add in the prospect of losing their manager and one of their own in Eddie Howe to Tottenham or another big club and Bournemouth could have a whole new look come the summertime. There is one thing I am willing to say definitively though – David Brooks is the bargain of the season thus far.