Since David Wagner’s arrival, Kenny McLean has taken on a more prominent role within Norwich City’s set up. McLean is now an influential part of a Wagner side.

Under Wagner’s predecessors, Daniel Farke and Dean Smith, Kenny McLean’s role was highly changeable. As a result, his contributions were less clear cut and more inconsistent. Perhaps this negatively contributed to his performances, which were widely criticised by fans.

The dismissal of Dean Smith saw set-piece coach Allan Russell, and head of football development Steve Weaver, appointed as joint-interim head coaches. In their first game in charge, against Reading, it was immediately clear they had found a more distinctive role for McLean.

A role which has, thus far, remained a crucial element of Wagner’s Norwich. This role is called ‘La Salida Lavolpiana’.

What is ‘La Salida Lavolpiana’ and how is it beneficial?

La Salida Lavolpiana loosely translates to La Volpe’s exit or La Volpe’s transition, but this tactical concept cannot merely be understood through translation. Named after former Argentine football manager and 1978 World Cup winner, Ricardo La Volpe, La Volpe’s transition has been a prominent feature of some of the most successful teams in football.

La Volpe’s transition provides a means of escaping an opponent’s press, through a relatively simple rotation in the first phase of the build-up. It involves one defensive midfielder dropping, into the same line as the two centre backs, to create numerical superiority against the first line of the opponent’s press.

The creation of numerical superiority is one of the key requirements of ball progression; with numerical superiority comes the creation of a free man (an unmarked player).

During La Volpe’s transition, the defensive midfielder either drops between the two centre backs, or to one side, depending on the situation. The defensive midfielder may drop to the side of the centre backs if one full back is higher than the other, or if one centre back has moved into the central zone to support the other centre back.

To transition between the thirds, the team in possession needs to create numerical superiority – and therefore a free man – during each phase of the build-up. Through La Volpe’s transition, the team in possession can create a numerical advantage in the defensive third, and additional passing options into the midfield third.

The back three created by La Volpe’s transition gives full backs the freedom to stay high and wide in the build-up, without significantly compromising the defensive structure of the team. This is beneficial for numerous reasons.

High full backs perform a role known as ‘pinning’, whereby opposing players are unable to join their team’s press due to their responsibility to stay close to the full backs. With fewer players pressing, the team in possession has a greater chance of creating numerical superiority in the build-up.

Additionally, high and wide full backs create a more profitable attacking structure. They allow the attacking midfielders to occupy the half spaces, instead of being forced to provide the width. This creates more passing lanes into the attacking third and horizontally stretches the opponent’s defensive line.

The Pink Un:

If the opponent presses the defensive midfielder, La Volpe’s transition also creates space for a free man in midfield. By creating a back three, the passing angles between the defensive and midfield thirds are changed, making the midfield third more accessible.

Transitioning between the defensive and midfield thirds is a crucial aspect of build-up play. If possession is lost in this phase, the team is vulnerable due to the proximity of their own goal. However, the back three – created by the defensive midfielder – provides more defensive security at the point of defensive transition.

Ricardo La Volpe’s influence on modern football should not be understated. La Volpe’s transition can be identified watching the teams of top managers such as Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel. For Norwich fans, La Volpe’s transition could become a familiar rotation under Wagner. For McLean, it could transform his reputation.

Wagner on McLean

“Kenny brings everything to play this role. He should play a position where he has to have the ability to play long range passes, and short range passes. He is a very intelligent player as well.

"And obviously, you have to be able to defend and be aggressive in the right moments, especially when this counter press situations come - you have to be intelligent, football intelligent, to really see the danger in the right moments, to build up the rest of the defence quick enough, and he has everything.

“It's important that he stays calm, that he does not get too emotional, that he keeps his position, even if more or less something doesn't go right on the pitch as the play develops, and it will never always go right over the whole time.

"This is something where he for sure can progress but everything what I've seen from him he is a top professional and I'm very happy with him having him in in my team.”

You can read all Ben's previous analysis of Norwich City games via his social media accounts.

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