By Harry Siddle – @HS_10Ftbol
The phrase ‘breakthrough season’ will probably be attributed to many players in this Premier League campaign, with the likes of James Maddison and Declan Rice being the most obvious candidates, but Bournemouth’s David Brooks has proven himself to bed among them.
A debut season which has yielded a combined 10 goal and assists for the Cherries has impressed many but it’s less of his attacking output that stands out the most, but instead his skillset which makes him a very desirable creative midfielder.
Ask most Liverpool fans what creative attacking player they want in the summer and it’s more than likely either Paulo Dybala or Nabil Fékir will be brought up, with a sprinkle of Hakim Ziyech here and there.
David Brooks, another left-footed creative midfielder, albeit admittedly not on the same level as the aforementioned players, is a name that Liverpool should be watching as he could act as a suitable long-term alternative to the main big name targets.
The Welshman has been used in numerous positions by Eddie Howe so far this season. He’s been deployed behind the striker in the 4-4-1-1 system, as the right central midfield player in the 4-4-2 or as the right midfielder in that same formation.
Like Xherdan Shaqiri, he tends to use his technical ability rather than athleticism whenever on the right wing as he prefers to come inside where he’s more comfortable in order to combine and play in tighter areas.
From watching him his game and style, his is very similar to a former Reds fan favourite in Yossi Benayoun, as his use of feints and jolting hand and body movements strike a vivid comparison to the Israeli playmaker.
What’s clear to see in terms of Brooks’ creative play is that he is more effective when trying to create when he has less time to think, and when it’s instinctive. What I mean by this is that Brooks loves receiving the ball on the half turn and playing through balls to either Callum Wilson or Josh King in no more than two touches and almost in one motion, which are all done instinctively and quickly.
This becomes more and more impressive by Brooks the more you watch him as he is always aware of the players making runs off him before he receives the ball as he is constantly checking his shoulder and scanning.
Having the ability to scan and be aware of what is around you before receiving the ball is essential for any creative midfielder which explains why Brooks is so effective when he plays through balls or penetrative passes when he has little time to think, as seen in the video below.
Despite this, when given more time on the ball in open play, the young Welshman can struggle at times to execute risky passes to runners in behind. However, this isn’t much of a weakness as playing the final ball in all types of environments can be developed with age.
The Bournemouth midfielder also has a good range on his passes as during attacking transitions Brooks has shown more than enough evidence of being able to consistently play that lofted chipped through ball to Wilson or King who are making runs behind. As well as having a good range of passes Brooks possesses a good final ball in transitions as his pass selection is consistently right.
Ball striking ability
Another impressive trait of the 21-year-old’s skillset is his ball striking ability. Contributing six goals to this season is much explained by this and the fact he can get off good shots from lots of different circumstances and positions.
This can be seen in Brooks’ fifth minute goal against Crystal Palace back in October and is the first clip in the video below. Brooks is able to add that whip and curl on the ball and at the same time maintain a square and stiff body position. It may seem strange to comment on a players body position when shooting, but for this goal Brooks’ body position makes the goal.
This is all impulsive, but he reduces the amount of movement of his body to the right hand side to not make the direction of the ball move to the right hand side, and once he makes contact with the ball his body is straight and quite stiff which makes the ball curl so accurately.
As well as this, the Welshman is also very good at creating shooting options for himself whether that be through his dribbling or his movement in behind. Since the absence of Philippe Coutinho from the Liverpool squad the lack of shooting from outside the box is clear to see – so adding Brooks gives the attack that element of unpredictability from outside the box with his ball striking abilities.
This is where he reminds me of Yossi Benayoun. Brooks, like the Israeli, uses body and shoulder feints in a jolting movement to beat his marker for Bournemouth this season but he isn’t your traditional dribbler.
This is because Brooks is much more comfortable dribbling and using these feints when he’s under pressure and it’s instinctive in tighter areas, similar to his passing, and is less effective when he has to beat a defender one on one, or dribble through three or four players, something that you’d attribute to a traditional dribbler.
The midfielder isn’t the most athletic or fastest of players but he makes up through his technical ability, and is similar to Adam Lallana with the body and shoulder feints, but to a lesser extent to Lallana’s seemingly-endless Cruyff turns.
Brooks would be a great alternative to Liverpool’s main targets for the creative attacking midfield role or even the main target for that spot, not just because of his desirable skillset but because he’s proven and adapted to the Premier League. Going off Liverpool’s past transfer history, targeting Brooks would follow a pattern the club have followed recently.
That is the pattern of buying a player who has proven himself at a mid-table Premier League club who Liverpool previously were watching and interested in at a lower league club. Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mané are the best examples of this as they proved themselves at lower Premier League clubs before Liverpool bought them and ended up being shrewd and smart business.
Allowing Brooks to prove himself in the Premier League and then signing him, instead of buying him from Sheffield United straight away would be another successful signing for Michael Edwards and Jurgen Klopp, even if it does cost the Reds more than it would have done before.