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Sunderland striker gives Di Canio the thumbs up
AMERICAN striker Jozy Altidore insists Sunderland's new-look squad is in tune with the Paolo Di Canio way of life on Wearside even if the start to the Premier League season has not been ideal.
An opening day defeat to Fulham and draw at Southampton last weekend means the Black Cats have picked up just one point going in to this evening's third match at Crystal Palace.
And while Sunderland progressed through to the third round of the Capital One Cup in midweek, the victory over MK Dons was far from convincing at the Stadium of Light.
But Altidore feels the uninspiring performances in the opening fortnight of the season can be put down to teething problems rather than anything else.
There have been 11 new arrivals over the course of the summer and Di Canio is still looking to add more before the transfer window shuts on Monday night.
There is a feeling inside the dressing room, though, that the Italian's methods will deliver the right results after increasing the fitness and workrate levels of the team during his time in charge.
“It’s a new team but at the same time there has to be a foundation and we still haven’t figured that out entirely,” said Altidore. “I think we have bought into what Paolo is doing but we’re still adjusting to it.
“We’ve got to get it right as soon as possible because in the Premier League if you go 2-0 down you’re not coming back from it. We have to iron out the mistakes and just try to improve.
“Let’s put it this way, we did not get a pat on the back on Tuesday night from the manager against MK Dons. The manager was honest. He could see the fight but he was right, we got outplayed for 65 minutes.
“The fact is that their football was better than ours and that is a wake-up call to us. We have to improve and that means working hard in training and really switching on and trying to get better. It’s a new team, we’re still getting to know each other.”
While Sunderland's first pre-season programme under Di Canio took in Italy, Hong Kong and Sweden, the team did not play as many warm-up games during that period as other Premier League teams.
More fixtures would have been helpful given the extent of the changes, but the second most expensive new-summer signing thinks it is only a matter of time before Sunderland show greater quality.
“You have to look at both things. We’re a new team, we didn’t play that many friendlies - it’s not like we have played a ton of games together,” said Altidore. “We are still getting to know each other but obviously results are important too.
“If you want to build something, you have to give it time. You can’t just pull the switch. You have to give it time to work together and you have to be prepared to work through the difficulties.
“The trip to Crystal Palace is a very big game for us. We have to take something from that when you look at the schedule moving forward. We have to go there looking for three points.”
After tonight's game at Selhurst Park, Sunderland face Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United over the course of the next four Premier League matches.
Di Canio will be hoping Altidore's first goal will give him the ideal lift ahead of such a run-in and that arrived last Wednesday against MK Dons.
In his previous spell in the Premier League, before a prolific couple of seasons in the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar, he only mustered one goal in 28 appearances during Hull City's relegation campaign.
Altidore said: “It’s good to get that first goal but I would rather play a really good game and not score, especially in the beginning of my career here.
“My goal is to be a guy who my team-mates can play into, somebody who can create chances and hold the ball up. I wanted to get that first and I feel like I am beginning to get that.
“Of course, goals are a striker’s currency and so that is important but my role in the team is different. First off I have to play the way the system needs me to play. I have to understand how we play, how we work and then after that we get specifics right and the goals will come.
“The most important thing for me is to have that willingness to go the extra mile for the team. I need to be strong in that final 30 minutes which is hopefully something I am showing so far.”
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