Sport Soccer

Monday 20 November 2017

Di Canio staying positive

Paolo Di Canio is confident his Sunderland side will come good
Paolo Di Canio is confident his Sunderland side will come good

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio is refusing to hit the panic button despite seeing his team slip to the foot of the Barclays Premier League table.

Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Arsenal left the Black Cats with just a single point from their opening four games and a daunting fixture list ahead of them.

But as he prepared for next weekend's trip to West Brom and the visits of Liverpool and Manchester United to the Stadium of Light which follow it, Di Canio was remaining positive.

He said: "After 20 games, if you are still at the bottom and you are 10 points, 12 points from the fourth place from the bottom, you can start to think, 'Eighteen games to go, okay, plenty of points, but it's difficult'.

"But now we are all there and we are starting to play good football."

Sunderland did indeed play some good football against the Gunners, but belatedly so.

In truth, the game really should have been over by half-time as Arsenal's record signing Mesut Ozil served notice of the impact he intends to make on English football.

It took the £43million Germany international just 11 minutes to demonstrate his rich array of talents, pulling Kieran Gibbs' long ball out of the air and sending an inch-perfect cross into the path of striker Olivier Giroud, who confidently steered it past keeper Keiren Westwood and into the bottom corner.

Ozil simply bamboozled the Black Cats defence and had England international Theo Walcott been able to summon up a finish on either of the occasions on which he was played in by the former Real Madrid star, or when Giroud sent over a 43rd-minute cross, the points would have been secure by the break.

But he could not and the home side dragged themselves back into it four minutes after the restart when half-time substitute Craig Gardner converted from the spot after Adam Johnson had been tripped by Laurent Koscielny.

Aaron Ramsey restored Arsenal's lead with a crisp 67th-minute volley and then repeated the dose by finishing off another slick move nine minutes later.

However, in the meantime, the Black Cats were denied an equaliser when referee Martin Atkinson chalked off Jozy Altidore's strike after blowing for a foul on him by Bacary Sagna, much to the annoyance of Di Canio, who was later sent to the stands having, by his own admission, invited the official to dismiss him.

The Italian was nevertheless buoyed by his side's second-half display and is confident things will turn sooner rather than later.

Asked how he intends to maintain the spirits of his players, he said: "We have to be intelligent because many times I have experienced that if you stay at the bottom, some belief can go far from your brain.

"But the fact is that they are intelligent and we are a work in progress and we will be knuckling down and working hard together for the next few weeks.

"We know that we can lose some games, especially now with us - it can happen with Manchester United.

"It's important that we keep going and believing that during the training sessions daily and weekly, we have to work so hard because only in this way can we gel quickly together and we can have a quick togetherness from the kick-off.

"I know it's difficult. I am sure the players many times, especially at this moment, that must be how they are thinking.

"But the half-hour that they played together was a very good half-hour.

"It is not easy to play this football against Arsenal, and we created the chances to complete the comeback because we came back well and we deserved to go on top at that moment.

"In the first half, we can say we deserved to be 2-0 down, probably. It didn't happen, we didn't sink, we didn't lose our belief.

"In the second half, we came out better, we adjusted something on the field and we came out with more motivation. The lads were very good, very good, very good because it's not easy.

"It didn't look like a team that hadn't played together for many years for half an hour, so that has to be our belief, our positive energy."

Press Association

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport