Sunderland has been off to a rough start this season. They opened up league play with a discouraging 1-0 loss at home to Fulham. Although Fulham added more guile and venom to their attack this summer, their defensive work-rate is poor, leaving them easily exposed. However, Paolo Di Canio’s squad was unable to take advantage, showing little offensive cohesion and lacking the spark to impact the game.
In their next outing, against Southampton, the Black Cats came out looking promising early on. Emanuele Giaccherini put in a header from a corner to net his first goal for his new club, putting Sunderland in the driver’s seat early. They were able to maintain their position for the majority of the game, controlling two-thirds of the possession. Many chances were exchanged but they came without results. But finally, after 87 minutes, Southampton were finally able to equalize against the run of play, much to the discontent of Di Canio and his squad.
In their third game, Di Canio watched his side be pummeled 3-1 by newly promoted Crystal Palace. The Black Cats posed no real threat offensively and their defense had as many holes in it as a piece of Swiss cheese. Sunderland were simply outclassed by Crystal Palace, a team essentially comprised entirely of Championship level players. After the match, the manager made his feelings known. Paolo criticized his side, accusing them of lacking determination. He also emphasized the need for new players at the club.
In response to this claim, his critics will be pointing to the eleven players Sunderland already transferred in over the summer. It is certainly understandable for a team that has undergone so many changes to need time to form a new identity and to establish itself in the Premier League. So should Sunderland be worried? After all, it is only the fourth week of the season. If I were Paolo Di Canio looking towards my upcoming fixtures, I’d be a little nervous.
The next month will be pivotal in setting the tone for the rest of Sunderland’s 2013/14 campaign. After lacking results in their first three matches, Sunderland take on Arsenal at home in the Stadium of Light. The Gunners and manager Arsene Wenger will be coming in hot off of their victory against Tottenham Hotspur and will be heavily favored. If Sunderland are unable to take any points away from this match, more questions will be asked of Paolo Di Canio.
After Spurs, the Black Cats will face West Bromwich Albion, a club who have had a similar start to their season. Seeing as this is a game that Sunderland should win, there will be added pressure for a result. Following their match against West Brom, Sunderland will go on to face heavyweights Liverpool and Manchester United in consecutive weeks. It’s difficult to see Sunderland winning either of these games considering their recent form. However, if they can sort out their defensive issues, they may have enough to draw their way out of the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, Paolo Di Canio persists that he is is the right man for the job and that he is capable of doing what must be done in order to bring success to Sunderland. One thing that will not be questioned is the manager’s passion for the game. Paolo Di Canio wears his emotions on his sleeves. His goal celebrations as a manager are more entertaining than most players’. But Sunderland will need more than enthusiasm and spirit if they are to succeed in the Premier League. As one of the most exciting managers in the world to watch, a neutral fan can only hope that Sunderland will stay afloat long enough for Di Canio’s vision to be realized.