Di Canio will be hoping high profile additions make relegation worry a thing of the past
Manager’s job security: A tough one to call. Whilst Di Canio has only been in the role for less than half a season, the fiery Italian is just as likely to lose his job over matters off the pitch rather than on it.
Bust-ups with players and fans, and his controversial personal life could all prove problematic, regardless of how the side perform on the pitch.
Captain: John O’Shea.
Last season: 17th.
Players in: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, £6.5m), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus, £6.5m), Vito Mannone (Arsenal, £1.5m), David Moberg Karlsson (IFK Gothenburg, £1.5m), El-Hadji Ba (Le Havre, £380,000), Duncan Whatmore (Altrincham, Undisclosed), Cabral (Basel, Free), Modibo Diakité (Lazio, Free), Valentin Roberge (Maritimo, Free).
Players out: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool, £9m), Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull, £2m), James McClean (Wigan, Undisclosed), Matt Kilgallon (Blackburn, Free), Adam Reed (Burton, Free), Danny Graham (Hull City, Loan), Alfred N’Diaye (Eskisehirspor, Titus Bramble, Anthony Callaghan, Wade Joyce, Ryan Noble, Ben Wilson (all released).
Aims: Ordinarily, the team finishing precariously perched above relegation one season would still be looking to avoid it the next. Sunderland however have the bonus of both a full season with a new manager, plus a handful of genuinely exciting signings.
Should the signings gel and the manager continue to establish his brand of football that kept the team in the Premier League in 2013 and Sunderland could become a dangerous team if underestimated.
Key player: Stephane Sessegnon – The electric French attacker was the catalyst behind the majority of Sunderland’s attacks last season. Whilst frustrating at times, he is undoubtedly the team’s most influential and naturally talented forward.
Thanks to the arrival of additional attacking reinforcements, Sessegnon should should flourish next season without the crippling burden of being the team’s only effective creative force.
Needs to improve: Adam Johnson – Once one of the brightest prospects in English football, Johnson is now 26 years old and still yet to fully silence his critics.
His undeniable technical ability combined with his creative dribbling seemed to be outweighed last season by fleeting form and predictability. If he can work out a way to involve himself in play more often whilst contributing more of the superb goals he has scored in the past, Johnson could become one of the most exciting wingers in the league once again.
Big summer signing: Emanuele Giaccherini – With two seasons of football at Juventus and 15 appearances for the Italian national team, it is safe to say that even the most ardent Sunderland supporter would regard Giaccherini’s £6.6m transfer as a massive coup.
English fans may have only laid eyes upon him for the first time at the Confederations Cup this summer, where he put in an extremely impressive performance filling the void left by Antonio Cassano. His trickery and pace should be the perfect complement on the opposite flank to Sessegnon.
One to watch: Jozy Altidore – Premier League fans may remember Altidore from a particularly unspectacular season with Hull City during their ill-fated 2009-10 campaign. The USA striker has matured a lot in the three passing years though, and scored an impressive 23 goals in 33 games last season as AZ Alkmaar went on to win the KNVB Cup.
Strong on the ball, fearsome going forwards and a threat with both feet, Altidore will provide a much needed partner for Steven Fletcher who found himself being relied upon to grab goals all too often last season. Not only that, but at 23-years-old Altidore is still only getting better.
What do they need? To score more goals. Many, many more goals. Before di Canio arrived last season, Sunderland were the lowest scorers in all of the English, Spanish, German, Italian and French top flights. Not good.
Di Canio was obviously aware of this, and made sure to add some excellent attacking components to the squad, and there’s no reason to suggest it won’t pay off.
Besides that, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet departed for Liverpool. Possibly Sunderland’s best player last season, young Vito Mannone has been brought in as his replacement. Relatively unproven in his time at Arsenal, Mannone could face a baptism of fire at his new club.
fanatix prediction: 17th – If this Sunderland side was competing in the 2012-13 Premier League season, this prediction would be several positions higher up the table. Unfortunately for Sunderland, many of the teams around them have also strengthened excellently.
An influx of Premier League attacking talent will test what is, on paper, an unremarkable Sunderland defence, whilst a new attacking lineup always the opportunity to backfire. However, given just how poor the three teams fanatix anticipates to finish below them are, they should be safe before the final week of the season.