Leeds have added to their United States contingent with the signing of Weston McKennie on an initial loan from Juventus.
McKennie is set to join compatriot and head coach Jesse March at Elland Road, where he is likely to be a key figure in the team’s fight to secure Premier League survival for a third consecutive season alongside USMNT teammates Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson.
The 24-year-old midfielder’s loan can become a permanent transfer at the end of the 2022/23 campaign, with a fee in the region of £30 million being widely quoted.
But what will McKennie bring to a Leeds side that have won just four of their 19 Premier League games so far this season? Is he a necessary signing by Marsch or simply another delve into familiarity in the transfer market?
Here, we try to unpack how the transfer might work for all concerned.
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As an all-action midfielder who has previously thrived in a box-to-box role, McKennie instinctively feels like a good fit for Marsch’s high-octane Leeds side.
Among Juventus midfielders, only Filip Kostic, Manuel Locatelli and Adrien Rabiot have played more than McKennie’s 1,058 minutes across all competitions this season.
Other than that, there are not too many standout returns from McKennie in terms of creativity and goal involvements, with a single goal and an assist to his name so far this term.
He is a hard-working cog in the machine who can help others shine, rather than a player to grab a game by the scruff of its neck and turn it around single-handedly.
Whether those qualities prove decisive for Leeds in their current predicament remains to be seen, but adding the pedigree of a Champions League regular should have an obvious upside.
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If it wasn’t for considerable off-field turbulence at Juventus, there is every chance this deal would not have fallen into Leeds’ lap.
The Serie A giants have been docked 15 points following an investigation into their transfer dealings and accounting practices.
Juve have pledged to appeal the ruling, but their current plight makes the chances of Champions League qualification remote.
As such Juventus have to take the opportunity to sell players like McKennie in order to balance the books.
Although the Texan’s time in Italy’s top flight has yielded mixed reviews, this is not a case of a player being bounced from a squad due to sub-par performances.
In normal circumstances, you would expect McKennie to remain a part of Massimiliano Allegri’s squad. Marsch and Leeds have merely moved quickly to exploit a developing situation.
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McKennie could bring about a slight tweak of system from Marsch, who has typically fielded a 4-2-3-1 this season.
Adams and Marc Roca have played as the double midfield pivot, with Aaronson ahead of them alongside a rotating cast of wide attackers.
McKennie has played a lot of his best football on the right of a midfield three, so could slot in there, shuttling alongside Adams in front of Roca in the holding role.
Teenage Italy international Wilfried Gnonto has been a revelation since breaking into the Leeds team post-World Cup and could be the x-factor in their bid for survival.
An Adams, Roca, McKennie midfield three with Aaronson and Gnonto supporting top scorer Rodrigo Moreno in attack would have plenty going for it as a front six.
News of this transfer brought predictable eye-rolling in some quarters. After signing Aaronson and Adams during the close season — both of whom have impressed since moving to West Yorkshire — it was easy to see this as the latest example of Marsch having a predilection for his compatriots.
There is indeed a clear pattern to Marsch’s purchases, but it’s not one based on nationality.
Having cut his teeth in the Red Bull coaching school, leading their New York, Salzburg and Leipzig franchises before making the move to the Premier League, Marsch is a disciple of high-energy, high-pressing football.
Such tactics are most synonymous with Germany’s gegenpressing (counter-pressing) school and Marsch is clearly drawn to players who are familiar with operating in this style.
Take Leeds' January business as an example. Central defender Max Wober is the third signing to arrive directly from Red Bull Salzburg, after Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen.
Striker Georginio Rutter became a club-record £36m signing from Hoffenheim, a third buy directly from the Bundesliga following Roca and Adams — the latter ticking the box as an erstwhile RB Leipzig player.
Signing for Juventus heightened McKennie’s global profile, but he has played during a turbulent period in Turin, with changes in the dugout and on the field failing to extend a decade of dominance.
The Schalke version of McKennie — the player who tore around the Bundesliga making a division-high 175 recoveries of possession for a midfielder in 2019/20 — is the player Marsch will want to see in Leeds. The colour of his passport is very much secondary to his experiences among the elite of German and European football.2023-01-30T20:36:51Z dg43tfdfdgfd