Di Canio’s attire – the jumper he wore under his suit had to be seen to be believed
– promised touchline fireworks. But, by his standards, he was virtually
immovable. He did not even celebrate the opening goal and barely reacted to
those of Chelsea. He did spend the entire match on his feet and there were
flickers of passion but they were increasingly forced.
Embracing John Terry was perhaps not the wisest PR move after Di Canio walked
out of the tunnel and he probably wants to watch the arm gestures. But
Sunderland supporters were certainly on his side, singing his name as he
turned to applaud them. Chelsea fans refused to give him a hard time and it
was all really rather quiet until the opening goal prompted another chorus
of “Paolo Di Canio” from the away end and they also sung his name at full-time.
SELECTION AND TACTICS
Di Canio made a bold selection decision by handing Connor Wickham only his second
Premier League start of the season. The 20 year-old added a physical dimension
to Sunderland’s play, which was duplicated throughout the side and
worked well in the first half. But the new manager arguably did not adjust
quickly enough to the injection of pace Fernando Torres’s game-changing
introduction in the second.
The Italian took every opportunity to cajole his players, beckoning them to him
and either geeing them up or barking out orders. Having already been said to
have impressed them during training last week, they responded well to his
input and certainly did not lack for commitment. Danny Rose possibly bore
the brunt of any frustration, most perversely after Sunderland took the lead.
Many managers would have turned to Plan B after Chelsea’s quickfire two goals
turned the game on its head. But Di Canio waited until the 71st minute to
make his first change, sending on James McClean for Sebastian Larsson, with
Jack Colback replacing Craig Gardner late on. McClean certainly added some
impetus to Sunderland’s play but the changes were not decisive.