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Why are Leeds United targeting USMNT star Weston McKennie?

2KG5C66 Doha, Qatar. 21st Nov, 2022. Weston McKennie of USA looks on during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Group B match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar on November 21, 2022. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Jesse Marsch’s search for a new midfielder to add to his Leeds United squad appears set to end in the arrival of Weston McKennie.

The USMNT star has cleared his locker at Juventus and bid farewell to his teammates on Thursday according to reports. He could now link up with national team partner Tyler Adams at the Premier League club.

Leeds head coach Marsch has already given the go-ahead for the signings of defender Maximilian Wöber and forward Georginio Rutter so far in the January transfer window. The third, and seemingly final, piece of business he wishes to conclude is a move for a midfielder with Moroccan World Cup star Azzedine Ounahi a player Leeds have considered in addition to McKennie.

Premier League leaders Arsenal are also rumored to hold an interest in McKennie, aged 24, a player who was tied for the second-most chances created for the USA at the World Cup in Qatar.

While three others (Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, Antonee Robinson) equalled McKennie’s tally of 3 chances, he did so having played the fewest number of minutes. Among all midfielders (min. 180 minutes played) who represented a nation to reach no further than the Round of 16 stage, McKennie is tied for 7th in the ranks in our chances created per-90 metric at 0.9. That is above the average of 0.6, while Denmark’s Christian Eriksen topped the ranks at a monster 3.3 and Ounahi registered 0.3 for semi-finalists Morocco.

McKennie ranks even better in our World Cup pressure metrics at 4th out of 57 qualifying midfielders (min. 80 pressures applied) due to a pressures applied rate of 67.9%. USA teammate Tyler Adams is 16th with 65% and South Korea’s Woo-young Jung heads the chart at 69.1%.

How this relates to Leeds has to do with the performances of incumbent midfielder Marc Roca and the departure of Mateusz Klich to DC United in the MLS. Roca and Adams have combined for 3,109 minutes played for Leeds this season. Outside of Klich (349), Adam Forshaw has played a mere 177 minutes due to injuries meaning Marsch’s trust has lied squarely on Roca and Adams.

In 19 league appearances this season, Roca has registered two or more chances created in only two games while Adams has managed to do so in six. As for pressures, the Spaniard ranks low in pressures applied per-90 among Premier League midfielders at 56th out of 69 qualifiers at 33.7, lower than Adams’ 44.4 which ranks 26th (min. 500 minutes played).

Juventus are reported to want more than £20m ($24.8m) for McKennie who has made 15 Serie A appearances this season.

His true passes metric, which adjusts passing accuracy to weigh in the movement of the intended target, of 78% in the league has been marginally below average of 80% among 82 qualifying midfielders (min. 500 minutes played), ranking tied-50th and behind teammates Leandro Paredes (91%), Adrien Rabiot (83%) and Manuel Locatelli (81%).

McKennie's completed passes per-90 rate of 26.5 places him below that trio to rank 62nd, also lower than the league average among midfielders of 34.7.

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