At 4:50pm on Saturday Paolo Di Canio entered the Hawthorns tunnel after suffering a comprehensive 3 – 0 defeat to West Brom; and having orchestrated a bizarre personal showdown with Sunderland’s own fans on a deserted pitch. On Sunday, a statement on the club’s official website read:
“Sunderland AFC confirms that it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening. Kevin Ball will take charge of the squad ahead of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup game against Peterborough United and an announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor.The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future.”
At the beginning everything had been glorious. His second game in the Premier League was a 3 – 0 away derby defeat of Newcastle, and the chants of “Paolo di Canio” from Sunderland followers could be heard for the full 90 minutes of the game and for long after.
On Saturday the same chant was instead being sung by the opposition fans, while a more sarcastic alternative to the original song – “Thank You Di Canio” – could be heard from the travellers of Sunderland.
It seems that this was the final straw, his last chance against the only other team in the Premier League without a win. Now, while West Brom will be looking to push on from this positive result, Sunderland will continue to search for that first win without the isolated Di Canio at the helm.
Often the decision to sack a manager after just 12 league games and less than 6 months in charge would be met by universal criticism. However his unusual and often harsh approach to man-management and discipline, that painted the picture of a man who was wholly disliked by the players, leaves most with no choice but to agree with Ellis Short’s judgment. It seemed as if the club was getting sucked into a downward spiral of low-morale as confidence continued to take a hit each week after defeat followed by the public criticism of his players – often individually.
Di Canio’s outspoken method of management is not an unusual one; indeed it is often applied by managers in certain situations. On the same day that the Italian lost to West Brom, Mourinho said in a live television interview that Juan Mata had to improve certain attributes of his game or forever remain second choice to Oscar. Except that while Mourinho was brutally honest, Di Canio was just brutal and his words often seemed closer to insults than to constructive criticism.
His simple sacking may be enough to cause an upturn in the spirits of the players, but the biggest issue that the new manager shall face is the seeming lack of quality in the 14 new faces that entered the club for £19 million during the Summer. Having signed from Juventus, Giaccherini was meant to be the star of the show (and maybe he still will be) but his poor performance at the weekend saw him taken off at half time, and with Sessegnon no longer in the squad Sunderland are still likely to find themselves in a relegation scrap.
Di Canio’s Management Stats
The simplest statistic to tell the story of his reign is the 2 wins that he picked up in 12 league games. With 3 draws and 7 losses making up the other 10 results, Paolo Di Canio had an abysmal win percentage of 17%.
In 2013/14 that win percentage is at 0%. In the five games played under his control Sunderland conceded 11 goals whilst scoring only 3 themselves, and were pegged back in every game with an average possession of just 43.58%.
Sunderland have lost possession an incredible 700 times this season already, meaning that they lost possession once a minute on average! This isn’t surprising when you consider that 26.75% of their passes didn’t find another Sunderland player.
Their ability to score has been their biggest failing so far. They have only managed a shot on target every 43 minutes, more or less only one per half, and have a lowly shooting accuracy of 28% and a chance conversion rate of just 8%.
With another 33 games to go in the current season, it will be do or die for Sunderland. Picking themselves up is the only option they are now left with, considering they look doomed for relegation so early on in this campaign.