Juventus: Weston McKennie is gradually finding his feet under Max Allegri

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 24: Weston McKennie of Juventus looks on during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and Juventus at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 24, 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/CPS Images/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 24: Weston McKennie of Juventus looks on during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and Juventus at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 24, 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/CPS Images/Getty Images) /

Weston McKennie has gradually started to turn a corner with Juventus. Since moving to Serie A from Schalke 04, McKennie has been a controversial figure at times, if not completely wicked.

Last April, he was found guilty of violating the COVID-19 protocols imposed by the club and subsequently served a ban that saw him miss the Derby della Mole.

While that was an event under Andrea Pirlo’s tutelage, McKennie made the headlines for all the wrong reasons once again when he was with the U.S. Men’s National Team in September. Landon Donovan — a former USMNT international — said of the American at the time: “The level of selfishness in that moment is beyond me. It’s almost beyond repair.”

Those incidents tarnished McKennie’s reputation both in his homeland and in Italy to a great extent. But as they say, a player should always let their on-field performances talk for themself  — McKennie is beginning to learn that craft.

A torrid start to the season

Signing a permanent deal with the Old Lady last summer, Weston McKennie had an abysmal start to the season. Due to a disciplinary suspension, he missed Juve’s season-opener against Udinese.

Thus, he made his first league start in the game against Empoli. The Bianconeri went on to lose the game 1-0 and McKennie, on the back of a dismal display, was withdrawn from the field at half-time.

In the next game against Napoli, Juventus suffered their second league defeat of the season, with McKennie making little to no attempt to aid Juve’s ailment. He was on the pitch for 73 minutes that night but was counterproductive. Against AC Milan in the next game, he didn’t play at all,  spending his time watching the game from the bench.

The game against Torino was one of the very few 90 minutes that McKennie has had been afforded this season. However, he was poor in that game as well. At that moment, it seemed as if nothing was working for the Texan. He was missing sitters and was also unable to complement his fellow midfielders with his own performances. It felt as if he would not last long in Italy.

A possible swing in momentum

Then came the week where Juventus lost two games on the trot but Weston McKennie picked up goals in both matches. The header against Sassuolo and strike against Hellas Verona helped McKennie embark on a new journey in his latest act in Bianconeri colours.

While the goals did little to change the course of the respective matches, McKennie proved vital without scoring in Juventus’ recent Champions League fixture against Zenit on Tuesday. It was a perfect display from the USMNT international that epitomised the 23-year-old’s ability to manoeuvre the flow of a match.

The starting XI saw McKennie partner Juventus’ best signing of the summer, Manuel Locatelli. But on Tuesday, McKennie was more impactful than the Italian midfielder. While sitting deep, McKennie was letting Locatelli lead the press ahead of him at times. And often, the Texan was playing the Rodrigo Berntancur role as a box-to-box midfielder.

In all, the U.S. midfielder read the game pretty well, completing two tackles and one interception, per the records from Sofascore. According to the data from FBref.com, he had 79 touches on the ball and attempted 72 passes with an impressive accuracy of 87.5%.

Way forward with Juventus

As it is apparent from the numbers, McKennie had a great game against Zenit and has enjoyed an even greater run of form lately in both Serie A and the Champions League.

Allegri’s decision to field McKennie alongside Locatelli in a match that would ensure their qualification into the knock-out stages of the Champions League this season shows how much faith Allegri does possess in the former Schalke midfielder.

His goal-scoring form might tempt the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter to pick the 23-year-old for this month’s FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. And that will only help McKennie prosper and restore his lost reputation among the enthusiasts.

As far as Juventus are concerned, the club, bypassing the recent miseries regarding results in league matches, will be looking forward to getting back to winning ways as soon as possible. They will be looking to take full advantage of McKennie’s brilliant form.

Under Allegri, the team is currently building a core. It would be interesting to see whether the Texan could cut that hub. Whatsoever, the critics could put those talks about the youngster’s uncertain future at Juventus to bed as McKennie, bound to Juventus until June 2025, is here to stay.