With Leeds landing Mckennie on the penultimate day of the transfer window, the whole outlook of their midfield looks set to shift. Will the highly rated American cause Jesse Marsch to rethink his tactical set-up?
Mckennie is known as a box-to-box midfielder, something quite different to the holding style of play of Adams and the deep-lying playmaker role Roca fills. We have seen Marsch deploying a central player sitting just behind the striker, but could McKennie cause him to reconsider this role and instead pack the centre of midfield? Having such an energetic player that can cover the space between boxes would offer a lot more offensive and defensive fluidity to the side. In recent Premier League fixtures, the Whites have looked quite rigid going forward, not offering much movement in the final third. Having someone who can break that defensive line down the middle could give Leeds more options and space going forward. The nature of such a vertical and narrow formation means that space is limited down the middle, so having a player who has a physical presence and can push forward down the centre of the park could be beneficial for Marsch’s side.
Players like Marc Roca may be looking over their shoulders; the signing of McKennie could displace him, as Marsch may opt for a different dynamic in the centre of the park. While Roca has his strengths, pairing him with Adams means that the centre of midfield does not have much attacking prowess in terms of pace and power. Having a player who can drive the ball from one box to the other means that vertical attacking moves can progress quicker than they currently do. Giving Leeds this extra attacking threat could create more chances for the attacking players as forward runs draw defenders out of position and therefore create space for other players to run into. It is unlikely that Tyler Adams would be displaced based on his exceptional performances lying deep in midfield, but with Marc Roca’s stop-start form this season, it would probably make the most sense for him to make way for Mckennie.
Coming from a side like Juventus, on paper McKennie should slide straight into the Leeds United starting 11. It is highly doubtful a player of his calibre would come to sit on the bench so Jesse Marsch has to find a solution. Dropping an attacking player may at first glance seem like a negative move, but McKennie’s energy and power could actually make Leeds more potent in attack. Having that national team connection with Adams and Aaronson gives Marsch further reason to fit McKennie straight into the team, as having that experience playing with his fellow Americans should mean he settles in much quicker and builds an understanding of the playstyle of the team.
McKennie could turn out to be a great bit of business for the Whites; he is a player of immense quality. He offers something much different to the options Leeds United currently have, and his qualities have deservedly earned him experience at the very highest level. As reported by Phil Hay, Marsch suggests Mckennie could be in contention to start against Nottingham Forest; it will be interesting to see what impact he has upon the team.