Thursday, April 26, 2018

Interesting summer at Sunderland

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has gone about overhauling his squad with great gusto this summer

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has gone about overhauling his squad with great gusto this summer

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio could never be described as boring and the Italian’s summer recruitment is anything but dull.

In fact, already the Black Cats have brought in eight new players for next season.


Summers at Sunderland have not exactly been exhilarating in recent years under the likes of Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill.

Last summer the Black Cats brought in just three players Carlos Cuellar on a free transfer from Aston Villa.

Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher followed for fees believed to be in the region of £30million combined. In truth, the Black Cats team also needed to be strengthened in other areas, as proved by Sunderland struggling so badly last season.

The problem was that O’Neill used up all his funds on Fletcher and Johnson. The signings had mixed results. Unfortunately for Sunderland they were typically overpriced British players, even if they are decent players.

Fletcher made a good start to his Black Cats career and ended up as the club top scorer with 11 goals, despite missing the last few months of the season. Johnson was infuriatingly inconsistent last season, but showed flashes of what he could do.

It seemed last summer Martin O’Neill’s scouts did not have passports. All three new arrivals had one thing common; they all arrived from English clubs. The signings seemed to show limited ambition and a complete lack of European football knowledge from the Northern Irish boss.


There could not be more of a contrast between last summer and this one. Sunderland have brought in players from all over Europe this time around. Obviously, Di Canio has more contacts in European football, simply because of whom he is, and the career he has had.


The Italian boss has already brought eight players into his squad this summer. Hardly any of the eight could be regarded as household names. Vito Mannone is arguably the best known to British fans, from his days as Arsenal’s number three keeper.

Half of the players that arrived at the Stadium of Light this summer were free transfers. Cabral, Modibo Diakite, Valentin Roberge, and El Hadji Ba all joined the Black Cats for no fee this summer. These are all relative unknowns to most British football fans, as is Swedish ace David Moberg Karlsson, who arrived from Gothenburg for an undisclosed fee.

The two most interesting and potentially exciting arrivals at the Black Cats this summer are Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini.

USA international Altidore arrived from Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar for an undisclosed fee. The 23-year-old has just enjoyed the most prolific campaign of his professional career, registering 23 goals in the Dutch top-flight last season.

The standard may not be as high in the Eredivisie, as the Premier League but the total is still an impressive one for the striker. Altidore has some experience of English football, after spending a short-stint on loan at Hull when he was 19.

The striker has matured since then and seems to have the perfect attributes for the English top-flight. He is fast, strong and powerful. Unlike a host of his fellow new arrivals, he will not have to learn the language, which should help him settle in at the Stadium of Light.

Giaccherini arrives from Italian champions Juventus for a fee believed to be in the region of £6.5million. The Italian international can play as either a winger or an attacking midfielder. He started his career off at Cesena and moved to Juve in 2011, after enjoying a number of loan spells in the lower divisions of Italian football earlier in his career.

Di Canio must have good knowledge on the player to have spent the amount of money he has on him. Sunderland fans will have to trust the Italians instincts and of knowledge of football in his homeland.

However, he is an Italian international, so he does have decent pedigree. Only time will tell if he successful in English football.


Di Canio is taking a gamble by bringing these sorts of unknown quantities into his Sunderland squad. However, with four of the players arriving on free transfers he does not have much to lose. If the players are successful then the signings will be regarded as a masterstroke and help the club win games.

If not, then they will be sold off, most likely at a profit in January or next summer. Di Canio may seem crazy, but this is definitely good business for the club.


The one thing that the Italian needs to be careful of is that the Black Cats do not follow the example set by QPR last summer. The Hoops made similar changes and ended up with a badly disjointed team that finished bottom of the Premier League.


What Paolo Di Canio is trying to do is breathe fresh life into the Sunderland squad. That is no bad thing, as in recent years the club seems to have gone stale. The Black Cats have not progressed and just dwelled in mediocrity.

However, I do not think that Di Canio is happy with mediocrity. The Italian will either succeed or go down in a blaze of glory. Whichever one it is, at least nobody can say that Sunderland or their boss are boring.

Will Paolo Di Canio’s summer changes at Sunderland be successful?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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