Farke lauds captain fantastic Hanley
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
Grant Hanley is turning into ‘captain fantastic’ for Daniel Farke. But the Norwich City head coach hopes he is not listening.
Hanley led from the front in a gruelling weekend Championship stalemate against Middlesbrough, and has been a key figure in City’s much-tighter defensive effort this season.
Yet Farke is demanding more from the Scottish international, ahead of another stern test of his squad’s promotion credentials at Millwall on Tuesday night.
“I am pretty happy with Grant. Don’t tell him because I am always on at him to improve,” he said. “He has improved so much over the past three years since we worked together. He is in a fantastic shape but I can ask for more goals from set pieces, more in terms of build up passes.
"I think he is doing fantastically. I consistently keep the pressure high on him because I want him to improve even more. He has so much potential in many topics. I hear commentators say he lacks pace. After (Przemyslaw) Placheta and (Dimitris) Giannoulis he is the quickest player in the squad. Fantastic leader, person, player.
“A difficult away game for us. The pitch won’t be the best, looking at the last games and that is never easy for a possession-based side. I really value Gary Rowett. His teams are well structured on this level. Pretty compact and difficult to break down. We are respectful but we want to put more points under our belt.”
Greek international Giannoulis endured a tough debut along with the rest of his new team mates against Boro.
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Farke saw enough positive signs to insist there is plenty more to come from the January transfer window loan signing.
“He needed a first start and we felt that was a good situation because he had a proper training week with us,” said Farke. “I thought he was quite solid. He showed some glimpses of his offensive threat with his pace. Jacob (Sorensen) has been fantastic in recent weeks but he was more or less the only player who has played every minute.
"He looked a bit tired at Barnsley, if I am honest. We have three games in six days and a home game is a bit easier start for Dimitris than difficult away games at Millwall or Swansea. He paid the trust back.
"A solid debut. Yes, offensively he could use some situations better but he showed enough why we signed him.”
Xavi Quintilla was the odd man out on Saturday in an area of the squad City were desperate to reinforce last month.
The Spaniard’s hip issue led to a prolonged spell in defence for central midfielder Sorensen, before Giannoulis arrived from PAOK Salonika on an initial loan that will become a permanent deal if City seal promotion.
“Xavi is an important player for me. But now he has to deliver in training on a consistent basis,” said Farke. “He was only back in team training a few days before but he was out for nearly two and a half months with injury.
"Then we played him in the FA Cup, he was solid and sadly he got the virus and he showed many symptoms. He felt poorly for a few days and was out maybe another two weeks. He is growing day by day. Dimitris was in his full rhythm and fit and the other option was Jacob. Bali Mumba can play also left and right full back.”
Mumba’s versatility down the right is a bonus although Max Aarons is fit for duty after suffering a bang to the face in the closing stages against the Teessiders. Emi Buendia starts the first of his two-match ban but Kenny McLean does come into contention after undergoing a period of self-isolation following coronavirus.
“We had to observe the protocols but Kenny is back training with us and has returned to the group,” said Farke. “Thankfully Max didn’t break his nose. It was just swollen and it has calmed down since the weekend.
"All of the players who played against Middlesbrough are available. Apart from Emi.”
Jordan Hugill is out for a month with a torn hamstring. Marco Stiepermann (Epstein-Barr virus), Sam Byram (hamstring) and Michael McGovern (hamstring) are longer term absentees.