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It's good to talk, declares Di Canio
WITH press conferences regularly weighing in at 45-50 minutes, answering two or three questions that result in pages upon pages of quotes, it is fair to say that Paolo Di Canio likes to talk.
There is method in the man's motormouth madness, though. Di Canio knows all too well that when he speaks, people generally listen. And the more that is written about him, the less can be said about his players.
With Sunderland bottom of the table with a point on the board, the need for Di Canio to talk has not been greater.
Some may say it is down to ego – perhaps Di Canio, who jokingly refused to concede he had ever made a mistake since taking over as Sunderland's manager in April, would agree – but his sideshow at Sunderland has indeed helped to deflect any blame on his players over the last weeks.
“It should help the players,” explained Di Canio ahead of his side's trip to West Bromwich Albion today. “With me, the attention is for different reasons, but Jose Mourinho was like a teacher for this - always distract the attention from certain situations and attract it to himself and then it means the players can stay more relaxed.
“It can have benefits. It’s not a rule, but it should be good for them if they are intelligent. This is not a problem for my team, but in a different environment if you have empty guys, they can use it in a way to be even more negative and think it’s the manager’s fault.
“They can use it as an excuse if you lose a few games in a row and say that the manager will get sacked. In a normal situation, it should be good for the players, because when people talk about blame at Sunderland it’s always Paolo Di Canio and because I’m not worried about that, they can take advantage.
“They won’t have seen one piece of criticism, only from me! Now, it’ll be ‘Di Canio is still speaking, but they’re still at the bottom, where is this football he keeps talking about’. I don’t care because I know we’ll play good football in the future, not Barcelona, but good football and better football than last year for sure.
“But there has been no criticism for the players, even though we saw very bad mistakes. That should help my players in some ways, but it’s not a rule. We will see what happens.
“I will absorb everything. I don’t have a problem with that. I will accept the weight of the building coming down onto my shoulders.”
An area of concern for both the supporters and Di Canio remains the midfield, with most of the Italian's combinations so far unsuccessful. However, in Ki Seung Yung and Craig Gardner in the second half against Arsenal, Sunderland seemed to find their way, and Di Canio is all too aware of the importance of his team's core.
He said: “If we lose, of course there are reasons. We have started three games out of five and gone 1-0 down without any pressure. This is a problem.
“The problem comes when we lose the ball in the middle and we are empty in the middle, there is a big space.
“We will change a bit now. That’s because I want to give them more confidence, because in this moment the two in the middle are not confident to play together and so we change continuously.”
Change is something Di Canio has been quick to do in terms of personnel, but not in infrastructure. His 4-4-2, on good days a 4-2-4, on bad a 4-5-1, is not up for discussion. But although that shape was linear and staid under Martin O'Neill, Di Canio feels fluidity in the banks of four can reap rewards.
“It depends on the game, it depends what we need,” said Di Canio when asked on whether he would be employing a third central midfielder at The Hawthorns today.
“If we are talking about strikers that have to drop and help the four in the middle, not in line with them but close, when we don’t have the ball we can play 4-5-1. But when we are on the ball, maybe not 4-2-4, but 4-4-2.
“It also depends on the individuals. If I play with Seb Larsson rather than Adam Johnson, it is different, less attacking football. If I play in the middle only with Lee Cattermole and Craig Gardner, it’s different than Ki and Lee Cattermole. If up front I play with a midfield player as a second striker, it’s different than if I play with Jozy and Fletcher.
“The interpretation tells you if it is a 4-4-2 defensive system or a 4-4-2 attacking system.
“For me, the wingers are crucial. I came here to play attacking football. But at this moment I realise to give more confidence I need to adjust something.
“We have to make sure we get some results and then we can start again to play more open and fluid and more attacking, with ten strikers.”
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