City report card: A three-part drama of epic proportions

Dimitris Giannoulis finished the season as Norwich City's first choice left back

Dimitris Giannoulis finished the season as Norwich City's first choice left back - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

It perhaps underscores why Norwich City posted a record-breaking season they were able to convert a central midfielder into a passable impression of a left back. 

There is versatility and then there is Jacob Sorensen getting a late, late call in the warm up at promotion rivals Brentford in late October. The Dane’s emergency shift to replace Xavi Quintilla turned into a second string to his bow during a prolonged run in the side around the turn of the year. 

There was even a final cameo in his unaccustomed defensive position when Dimitris Giannoulis was dismissed early on in the home defeat to Bournemouth, which came hours after Norwich’s Premier League ascent had been confirmed. 

Yes, it was quite the season on the left-hand side of Daniel Farke’s resolute backline. 

Quintilla arrived from Villarreal on a season long loan as Newcastle-bound Jamal Lewis’ immediate replacement. There was much to like in his attacking endeavour.

But defensive concerns and nagging fitness issues, which forced the Spanish international to return to his parent club to finally address a hip problem, effectively limited his impact.

There was also a spell sidelined with coronavirus. It was nothing if not eventful for the likeable defender, who at least signed off in style with that sublime free kick in the title-clinching romp over Reading.

Xavi Quintilla gets the congratulations for his free kick goal against Reading

Xavi Quintilla gets the congratulations for his free kick goal against Reading - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

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The warmth of the goalscoring celebrations from his team mates illustrated his impact within the group remained undiminished for all his relative lack of playing time.

One should also not underestimate the presence of a fellow Spanish speaker for the general mood and well being of Emi Buendia. The two appeared inseparable on the Championship title tour. 

But by the time Quintilla was fit for duty again after Christmas, Giannoulis had arrived in the building. 

The Greek international will become a fully fledged Canary next month, after Premier League promotion triggered a £6.2m buy option in the original loan move from PAOK Salonika. The top flight may be a more accommodating backdrop to Giannoulis’ attacking urges and intelligent forays down the Norwich left.

One wonders what he made of a bruising debut week that brought Championship grinds against a muscular Middlesbrough and Millwall.

By Bournemouth he had appeared to have grasped the physical intent of the English game, although his red card challenge was more mistimed than malicious - with poor old Ben Pearson’s anguished reaction seemingly doing Giannoulis no favours.

Dimitris Giannoulis' face said it all after his Bournemouth red card

Dimitris Giannoulis' face said it all after his Bournemouth red card - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

There may still be defensive aspects to his game that will need to become more rounded, but inside the camp there was a feeling Giannoulis’ mid-season arrival injected added dynamism to City’s labours.  

What looked a savvy deal from the outset, given the 25-year-old was touted with some big clubs in Italy in the past two seasons, could look another inspired piece of business at that price if he makes the step up to the Premier League. 

The talent also looks to be matched by the temperament. After a bumpy maiden week in green and yellow that brought those goalless draws against Boro and Millwall he gifted Stoke a potential lifeline at Carrow Road, when his horrid square pass across his own penalty box was slotted by Nick Powell.

That was not the type of impression he would have been seeking so early in his Norwich voyage. But within three minutes of the restart of that game his attacking burst to the byline and clever cut back for Buendia had restored Norwich’s two-goal advantage.

It was a big moment in the match, maybe even the season but certainly in the Greek’s bid to convince.  

Giannoulis is now the man in possession for the club's next chapter. But with the greatest respect to both him and Quintilla, it will be Sorensen’s spell at full back which is fondly remembered when this past season is packaged and filed away for future generations.

After that Bees’ bow Daniel Farke was candid enough to admit even his closest coaching aides were taken aback when the German opted to back a hunch and deploy Sorensen in a role he had never played before professionally.

There was some early discomfort. A penalty conceded at Bristol City in his next game did not prove costly. But as Norwich picked up speed and the accelerator went down, Sorensen looked less like a makeshift option with each passing win.

Perhaps the attacking dimension was lacking in the role, bar a clinical finish against Nottingham Forest in December, but in a crucial period Sorensen went above and beyond. Now his mission is to try and get in the shake up for Norwich’s intriguing central midfield mix back in the top flight. 

City will hope when it comes to left back in the Premier League, they have left that three-part drama behind them in the Championship.

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