Friday, July 8, 2022

Leeds United States Connections; Arsenal Get Their Man

Marsch Adds American Talent Among Six Leeds Summer Signings

Leeds United announced the signing of United States international Tyler Adams. The signing completes the move of the midfielder from RB Leipzig where Adams once played under current Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch. Adams will be playing for a third time under the American born Marsch with player and manager having also spent time together at New York Red Bull in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Adams will join fellow United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) member Brendan Aaronson who was signed by Leeds earlier in this window from RB Salzburg where the attacker played for a brief six-month period during Marsch’s stint as the manager for that Austrian club. Aaronson also has spent time in MLS with Philadelphia Union. A smooth transition by USMNT members Adams and Aaronson will contribute to the near-term success of Leeds and Marsch but will also improve the prospects for future American managers and players in the Premier League.

The record of US players in the league has been spotty. Tim Howard was a solid goalkeeper in the league, first for Manchester United and later for Everton. Clint Dempsey scored 23 goals in one season for Fulham. Christian Pulisic has provided highlight moments at Chelsea, but injury and inconsistency have kept him from reaching elite status. Nether Adams nor Aaronson will ever be considered elite but if they perform well, it could help the case for more US players in the Premier League. Josh Sargent’s deplorable year at Norwich this past season certainly did not help that cause. American managers have had an even more difficult time gaining a foothold in the league. German born David Wagner managed Huddersfield in the league for a brief time but the pedigree of the best man at Jurgen Klopp’s wedding was formed in the Bundesliga. The tenure of former MLS and USMNT manager Bob Bradley at Swansea in the Premier League was short, unsuccessful and subject to ridicule.

Jesse Marsch has taken the first step to gaining respect for American football managers in Europe by successfully, though narrowly, leading Leeds though a harrowing survival race last season. Leeds escaped relegation by a mere three points, winning their final match of the season to stay in the Premier League. The club looks to be losing two of its best talents from that team in Kalvin Phillips and Rafinha. Adams and Aaronson are lesser players but have the benefit of familiarity with Marsch’s system. Adams is the more accomplished of the two Americans, if not to the level of English international Phillips who was snatched up by Manchester City. Champions League and Europa League appearances for RB Leipzig burnish the resume of Adams. Aaronson, meanwhile, scored but six goals in the Austrian Bundesliga last season and is not a replacement for Rafinha who is rumored for a move to Barcelona or Chelsea. Leeds has made six signings this window including Luis Sinisterra, a 23-goal scorer for Feyenoord the Eredivisie last season. Leeds ownership, which includes the 44% holding by the investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers, is backing its American manager to rebuild a roster capable of beating the drop once again.

Gunners Look to Jesus for Answer

Another Premier League manager reached out for a former player as Arsenal finalized their deal to acquire Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus. Jesus experienced some of his best runs of play while current Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta was an assistant to Pep Guardiola for the Citizens.

The relationship between manager and player will be important as the Gunners incorporate Jesus into their scheme. Jesus is on record as being more comfortable on the wing where he plays for his native Brazil. Arsenal, however, needs a center forward. Gabriel has played the position but was unable to declare it his own for a Manchester City club which reverted to using a false nine last season. Midfielders such as Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden played the role for Guardiola last season as the minutes for Jesus were reduced. Manchester City has now moved on to a traditional striker in Erling Haaland. Arteta, meanwhile, needs Jesus to fill the void in the middle of the front-line for the Gunners which was created by the departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal already has a young crop of attacking wing players such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe. None of Arsenal’s attackers, however, are as dynamic as Jesus. The Brazilian is a two-way player with exceptional dribbling and pressing abilities. Jesus’ goal production while at Manchester City is also underrated. The forward’s rate of one goal every 160 minutes is the seventh best rate of production in the Premier League since Jesus arrived in the league in 2017. Mikel Arteta needs to make his newly acquired talent comfortable and unleash the potential of a player who is entering his prime at 25 years of age. 


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