Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano recently reported that Leeds United has agreed to personal terms with Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie. The two clubs have yet to agree on a fee, with the opening bid coming in at €28m earlier this week. Assuming a deal gets done by the end of the window, does Leeds employ a system that McKennie can thrive in?
Negotiations continue between Leeds and Juventus for Weston McKennie as opening bid has been made for €28m, Juventus want €35m fee 🚨⚪️ #LUFC
McKennie has already agreed personal terms with Leeds. pic.twitter.com/Imog3q7rpF
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 25, 2023
In his 2.5 years at Juventus, McKennie has found himself playing in a multitude of roles. The 24-year-old thrived under the management of Andrea Pirlo, scoring five goals and netting two assists in 1,702 league minutes during the 2020-21 campaign. Unfortunately for McKennie, Pirlo was sacked at the end of that season after an underwhelming run in the UEFA Champions League.
Following that, Juventus decided to bring Massimiliano Allegri back to manage the club for a second stint, previously coaching from 2014 to 2019. Since then, McKennie has not had the same level of performances that he showed during his first season in Italy. Injuries have played a role in that, but so has a lack of trust from his manager.
Despite Allegri saying that he is very happy with McKennie’s level of play, reports coming out of major news outlets, like the Dail Mail, have expressed that he [McKennie] is not in the long-term plans for Allegri. With that being said, it may be the right time for the player to go elsewhere at club level.
It does not help that Juventus was just penalized for false accounting and market manipulation, which resulted in a 15-point deduction in Serie A. All of sudden, the club is in a position where they would like to shed some money off the wage bill. That combined with Allegri and McKennie not always getting along, the midfielder is one of the players that is tapped to leave in January.
What Kind of Player Would Leeds be Getting?
McKennie has quite an interesting skill set, especially considering the variety of positions he has played throughout his career. He is probably best known as a floating eight, given how much freedom he has to roam from a more central position. That does not just apply to him at club level, as the USMNT has given him the license to take up a multitude of positions.
His best trait is his willingness to join the attack and create havoc in the box. The underlying numbers back this up, as his 2.21 touches per 90 minutes in the penalty area puts him in the 84th percentile of midfielders. He is also receiving 3.42 progressive passes per 90 minutes, which ranks in the 90th percentile at his position.
For a player who operates in the midfield, McKennie has an impressive amount of headed goals in his time at Juventus. He always seems to time his runs well whenever the wingers are preparing to cross the ball into the box.
The two areas in which McKennie needs to improve on is his passing ability and defensive actions. He completes 79.5% of his passes, which ranks in the 35th percentile among midfielders. McKennie’s 2.48 progressive passes per 90 minutes is very low for his position, putting him in the 17th percentile.
On the defensive side, his 1.27 tackles per 90 minutes ranks in the 9th percentile. He also averages 0.94 interceptions per 90 minutes, putting him in the 38th percentile. Despite some of those numbers being very low, Leeds has a player that perfectly compliments what McKennie lacks.
Tyler Adams is quickly becoming one of the better young defensive midfielders across Europe, as the American proved that at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. His protection of the back four was one of the biggest reasons why the USMNT were able to advance from their group.
McKennie struggles in two parts of his game that Adams has a lot of success in. He [Adams] averages 3.57 tackles per 90 minutes, which ranks in the 97th percentile. His 1.38 interceptions and 1.96 blocks per 90 minutes puts him in the 73rd percentile and 98th percentile respectfully.
While Adams is not an elite passer in his own right, he does have better underlying numbers in that department compared to his international teammate. He completes 83.9% of his passes, which ranks in the 63rd percentile. Adams also contributes 4.33 progressive passes per 90 minutes, putting him in the 72nd percentile.
McKennie and Adams have their fair share of weakness, but their strengths compliment each other very well. Whenever they play together in the national team setup, it is clear that both midfielders have a good understanding of what makes them so successful as a duo. Leeds are on the cusp of bringing that chemistry to the Premier League, which makes their second half of the campaign so interesting.
In Jesse Marsch’s 4-2-3-1 system, McKennie would play alongside Adams in a double pivot. While the pair typically play in a midfield trio with Yunus Musah for the USMNT, they have the quality and flexibility to play as a duo.
Former Bayern Munich midfielder Marc Roca would be the odd man out in the midfield if McKennie were to join Leeds. The Spanish international has formed a very nice partnership with Adams, as the pair have started nearly every game in the Premier League. While Roca has played well to this point, it is unlikely that he would start if McKennie were to join.
Leeds are the frontrunners to get his signature based on reports coming out of England, although they are certainly not the only club looking to sign the American. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa have also expressed interest in McKennie over the last few months, although none of them have reached the stage of agreeing on personal terms with the player. If Leeds are unable to agree on a price point with Juventus, look out for those clubs to make a last-minute push for McKennie.
Through 19 games, Leeds sits 15th in the Premier League table, just one point above the last relegation spot. If McKennie were to join the side, he would be coming into a team that is in danger of dropping down to the Championship. Leeds are a step down in quality from Juventus, although the midfielder would have a defined role under Marsch.
It is rare to see a Premier League side have an American playing a pivotal role within the team, let alone three. If McKennie were to join Adams and Brenden Aaronson in that respect, the American fanbase would all be rooting for Leeds to stay up. Six months ago, it looked like a much bigger club was ready to be his next destination. Now, McKennie looks all but ready to be a Leeds United player.