Norwich City boss David Wagner has praised Kenny McLean for his “outstanding” performance against Bristol City at the weekend, having replaced Danny Batth at the back.
Batth scored for the Canaries last week as the side went two goals to the good at Vicarage Road inside the opening fifteen minutes. However, the team eventually conceded three goals and fell to a 3-2 defeat.
The former Sunderland defender dropped to the bench for Norwich’s trip to Ashton Gate on Sunday afternoon as Wagner’s side took on Bristol City, with McLean surprisingly starting in the heart of the defence alongside Republic of Ireland international Shane Duffy.
This was the first time in his 529 professional appearances that the Scotland international played as a centre-back, according to Transfermarkt, but McLean managed to assist Adam Idah’s winner six minutes into stoppage time to pick up a massive three points.
Speaking after the game, Wagner hailed the Scot’s performance at the back and admitted that Bristol City’s lack of aerial threat was the key factor in his decision to have a comfortable, left-footed player at the back.
The German coach said [quotes via Bristol Live]:
“When he plays centre-back, we are very strong in ball possession and in the play-out. This was something different, but I expected Bristol to be very energetic, very high (in their press), and obviously this is why I wanted to have a left-footed centre-half who is comfortable on the ball.
“This was something that was strongly dependent on the opponent… Bristol is maybe not the most aerial threat in the offence so it suited Kenny then to play centre-back as well.
“He was exactly what I expected from him. Very calm on the ball, defended very very well.
“It was an outstanding performance.”
This was an excellent decision by David Wagner. McLean is superb on the ball which helped the Canaries to bypass Bristol City’s high press. However, it may not become a regular occurrence for Norwich City as Liam Manning’s side lack aerial threat up top.
Against a team with a tall centre-forward like Kyle Hudlin, this may become a little more problematic as the opposition can take advantage of McLean’s lack of aerial prowess.