Di Canio not worried by slow start
Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea misses the game against Arsenal due to a suspension
Paolo Di Canio during Steve Harper’s testimonial match between Newcastle United and AC Milan Glorie at St James’ Park. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has launched a staunch defence of his start at the Stadium of Light and vowed he will lead the Black Cats to a comfortable mid-table position by Christmas.
Di Canio’s men head into Saturday’s clash with Arsenal having picked up just one point from their first three games — and also have fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester United soon to come.
But Di Canio is adamant he has seen enough encouraging signs to shrug off suggestions that he could start feeling the pressure if his side slump to another defeat against the Gunners.
Di Canio said: “I never feel pressure. Even in 20 games’ time if we still had one point I would feel responsible but not under pressure — it is different.
“After three games I am not worried. I know by December we will be nearly in the middle of the table. I’m sure about that. In December, January, February we will win many games and take off.
“I’m sure about my strategy and philosophy and methodology. But it is difficult because in football there is panic, the players sometimes don’t believe in things. You have to believe that in 20 games’ time you will be in a different position.”
Di Canio believes a lack of communication has proved a crucial part in his side’s sluggish start, having signed 13 foreign players — including deadline-day buys Fabio Borini and Andrea Dossena — over the summer.
And he has demanded his new boys take it upon themselves to learn English as he seeks to cut out the kind of silly errors which sent them to defeat at Crystal Palace a fortnight ago.
Di Canio added: “I can help but I can’t become a school teacher for the foreign players every single moment. They have to think they have decided to come to England so they have to speak English.
“If you are intelligent and you really want to gel with the others you have to think one day I will learn five or 10 key words for the match. It takes five minutes, and it is their responsibility.
“The communication is crucial because it helps you react in time. We must communicate on the field otherwise we will pay a price.”
Di Canio could be tempted to start with a brand new strike force against Arsene Wenger’s men, with Borini set for his debut and Steven Fletcher pushing for his first start of the season.
Fletcher got off the bench to score at Selhurst Park and while Di Canio doubts if the Scot will be fit enough to play a full match after his long-term ankle injury, he is convinced he can make a big difference.
“We will see during the game if he gets 50 or 60 minutes,” added Di Canio. “It is very difficult for me to see him getting 90 minutes at the level I want to see from my players.
“But he is fit enough to score a goal and cause problems for our opponents, and give more belief to my players — give them more energy and motivation to push forward and give him the ball.”
Di Canio is set to keep faith in Jack Colback at left-back after singing the Academy product’s praises this week. John O’Shea is suspended after his sending-off against Palace.