As Jesse Marsch is looking to avoid relegation with Leeds United, the team has had a busy January transfer window adding defender Max Wober and forward Georginio Rutter. But the team doesn't appear to be done with their eyes set on United States international Weston McKennie from Juventus. With the uncertainty surrounding the Turin club and their 15-point deduction due to the mishandling of finances, McKennie may just be open to moving if the right destination comes up.
Multiple Premier League teams have reportedly been interested over the past year including Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Arsenal, and Tottenham, but Leeds seems to have the closest links at the moment. McKennie is quite familiar with the midfield core of fellow Americans Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams, with the trio playing together on the national team stage. But is a move to Leeds the best one for him?
Leaving Juventus makes sense as the investigation into their improper financial dealings could see the team banned from European competitions (they may not even qualify after the points deduction), but going from Champions League to a relegation race is quite a shift. It's a change that Adams has already undergone moving from RB Leipzig, but when McKennie is drawing interest from Arsenal, Leeds feels like an odd landing spot.
Where does McKennie fit in?
Fit-wise, bringing two-thirds of the starting United States midfield to Yorkshire could be excellent as Tyler Adams and McKennie have a great understanding of when to interchange in space. But Adams also has a good understanding with fellow midfielder Marc Roca too, although Roca isn't as much of a driving force in attack as McKennie is. Taking a step back from a Champions League club to a lower-table one will allow McKennie unquestioned playing time, but if Leeds were to get relegated, he would likely be on the move again.
In regards to the other interested parties, Arsenal are the one team to watch. The Gunners could offer McKennie a shot at a Premier League title, which is nice, but he'd be in a difficult situation fighting for minutes. He's not guaranteed a starting role due to Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey being in top form. In theory, McKennie would need to be at the top of his game in order to cause Mikel Arteta tough lineup decisions. The quality of play around him would clearly be better compared to Leeds, a team that see less of the ball but might offer more opportunity for minutes.
How would a move impact the national team?
As a key cog of the USMNT, McKennie is a player who will start no matter what, similar to Christian Pulisic. Coming into the World Cup after a long layoff due to injury with Juventus, McKennie has also shown that he can come into close matches cold and still be effective. But for the national team to perform due to lack of depth behind him, when McKennie isn't 90 minutes fit, the drop off without him on the pitch is drastic. Playing alongside Aaronson could help improve that depth but there is also the trade-off that a move to Arsenal could improve McKennie's decision-making.
What's the best move?
While it seems like Leeds are the team pushing harder, it would be in McKennie's best interest to wait out a possible Arsenal move. He'd be the third-best midfielder in the squad, likely opening him up for cup and Europa League minutes, as Xhaka and Partey aren't getting any younger. Xhaka is currently 30 while Partey is 29 and has also dealt with injury issues. In a swift moment, there is a world where McKennie is a starter for a Premier League title challenger, and as a player who backs his own talent, it's something that McKennie could be able to do.
There are still the USMNT connections with Arsenal in Matt Turner and possibly Auston Trusty, who is starring on his loan with Birmingham, and there is no threat of relegation like at Leeds, also American owned. If things don't work out, Leeds have a completely viable plan B in targeting Azzedine Ounahi of Angers, according to CBS Sports soccer insider Fabrizio Romano. Ounahi helped make Morocco tick at the World Cup and could hopefully do the same in Yorkshire. Despite the upside of moving to Leeds, the chance that everything ends in relegation makes the move a risky one if it's what McKennie decides to do instead of finishing out the season at Juventus and seeing what happens.