Premier League Relegation Battle: David Brooks' Return Could Be Key for Bournemouth in Fight to Avoid the Drop

David Brooks
David Brooks | Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

With the Premier League set to return on 17 June, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is encouraging his side to fight like hell to keep their place in England's top division next season.

Since gaining promotion to the Premier League, Bournemouth have defied the odds, playing free-flowing and attacking football along the way. But their form this season has been...worrisome to say the least.

In case you had forgotten, Bournemouth had won just seven of their 29 league games before play was halted due to the coronavirus back in March. As well as this, Howe's men have the fifth-worst tally for goals scored in 2019/20, while only four other teams have conceded more goals than their grand tally of 47.

Eddie Howe
Eddie Howe | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Perhaps what has been most concerning for Bournemouth this season is their lack of identity. Conceding goals aplenty while also struggling to find the net, it's hardly a surprise to see the Cherries currently sat in 18th place.

The suspension of play since March has given the Cherries the chance to regroup and reconsider their approach for the remaining fixtures. With both West Ham and Watford currently also sat on 27 points, Bournemouth are in a position to avoid the drop if they are able to rediscover their identity and get back to how they had been playing in previous seasons.

And the return of David Brooks will be a major boost for Howe.

The Welshman hasn't played a single minute of Premier League action since suffering an ankle injury back in July of 2019, but he is now back to full fitness. Last season, the Welshman was a key player for his side, making 30 league appearances. In this time, he contributed seven goals and provided a further five assists.

David Brooks
David Brooks is a very versatile player | Alex Davidson/Getty Images

It is immediately clear to see that Bournemouth have missed his goal contributions, but it is actually his overall influence on matches that has been missed most. Most frequently operating as a right winger, Brooks would constantly pose a real threat as he is equally capable of driving with the ball down the line or drifting infield and linking up play with his teammates.

Far too often this season, the likes of Josh King and Callum Wilson have been left isolated up front and unable to really impact matches in a positive way. They have desperately been in need of a player like Brooks to come in and use his intelligence to pick up pockets of space and play on the turn.

In Brooks' absence, Harry Wilson, who joined on loan from Liverpool for the season, has filled in and has arguably been the team's most consistent performer. He has contributed with seven league goals this campaign, just two fewer than Wilson's tally in 2019/20.

Harry Wilson
Harry Wilson | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Wilson has been a bright performer, but he simply hasn't been able to have the same kind of overall impact on his team as Brooks managed last season. This is underlined by the fact that Wilson hasn't managed to provide a single assist this campaign, while he hasn't been able to play anywhere near as many key passes either.

In 2018/19, Brooks managed 30 key passes in 30 games, while Wilson has only managed to provide 14 in 23 appearances. In terms of big chances created, Wilson has just two to his name so far this term, compared to Brooks' 12 last season.

The most worrying thing is actually that Wilson has been one of Bournemouth's most creative performers this season. Ryan Fraser leads the way in terms of assists with four - but he's netted just the once.

Brooks is the perfect blend of creativity and ruthlessness in front of goal - and this is what Bournemouth have so desperately missed.

If Howe is able to keep Brooks fit and get him match sharp ahead of the restart, he could very well prove to be the difference between Bournemouth staying up or going down. The Cherries don't have an easy run-in, not by any means, but with Brooks now back to full fitness, Howe has a front line that compliments one another and each player will be able to play to their strengths.

With matches against Southampton, Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Newcastle still to play, Howe's men have the opportunity to claim enough points to stay up. Brooks' awareness and understanding of the game will provide the Cherries with the composure and creativity they need to become competitive once again.

David Brooks, Seamus Coleman
David Brooks | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Will it be easy to stay up? Absolutely not.

Do we expect Brooks to single handedly transform a struggling Bournemouth team? No.

But the 22-year-old is one of the key players to watch out for in the relegation battle, as he could well galvanise this Bournemouth team and get them back playing at their menacing best.

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