Di Canio new manager at Sunderland, & fallout from O’Neill sacking continues

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: ”Sunderland AFC have confirmed the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as Head Coach on a two and a half year deal.” – Sunderland’s Twitter handle announce the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager”

Runner-up: I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future. It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the north-east and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games. However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.” – Labour MP David Miliband’s statement upon stepping down as Sunderland director following Paolo Di Canio’s appointment as manager

Paolo Di Canio confirmed as new Sunderland manager (Louise Taylor, The Guardian) The 44-year-old Italian represents an intriguing choice on the part of Sunderland’s wealthy American owner. Although Di Canio lacks Premier League managerial experience, he enjoyed an impressive 22-month stint in charge of Swindon after being appointed in May 2011.

Di Canio to offer stark contrast to Martin O’Neill’s style (Martin Hardy, The Independent) Di Canio’s Swindon reign was littered with colour and controversy. The club lost the sponsorship of the GMB Union on announcement of his appointment because of his association with fascist politics. He signed 15 players in that summer of 2011. There was a clash with one of them, Leon Clarke, in the tunnel after a game that was caught on camera. Clarke never played for Swindon again. Di Canio substituted his goalkeeper Wes Foderingham after 21 minutes during a defeat at Preston; Foderingham kicked a water bottle in a tantrum as he left the field. Di Canio demanded an apology, which he got. He took Swindon to the League Two championship and a Wembley cup final, which they lost.

MON Gone: The Fallout Continues

O’Neill’s failure to change cost him his job at Sunderland (Louise Taylor, The Guardian)  It is part of the human condition to question yourself but the Northern Irishman’s intransigence perhaps explains why, at a time when the Premier League landscape is fast changing, he struck fairly rigidly to the managerial methods which had served him so well at Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa. While other managers became converts to regular player rotation, frequent changes of system and the experimentation with assorted branches of sport science, including psychology, O’Neill stayed true to the tried and tested. He was long renowned as a master motivator but, imperceptibly, his touch seemed to desert him. After he masterminded an impressive revival immediately after succeeding Steve Bruce in December 2011, Sunderland finished last season on a poor run.

Martin O’Neill’s panic sacking means top-class managers risk sack if they do not deliver quickly (Alan Hansen, The Telegraph) We know they are getting increasingly twitchy and all those managers fighting off relegation at this stage of a season have cause to be worried, but I cannot recall such an experienced, high-profile manager being dispensed with in quite such circumstances. O’Neill has been, and still is, a top-class manager with a proven track record and a measure of success throughout his coaching career. If you wanted someone to get you out of trouble, it would be someone of his pedigree you would normally turn to, not get rid of.

Headless chicken time: Paolo Di Canio a panic move to mark new low for Sunderland (Kevin Maguire, The Mirror) In 44 years of supporting Sunderland through thin and thinner, the spectre of Paolo Di Canio is the most gut-wrenching threat of them all. It’s not only because he’s an Italian fascist, although that means I could never like, let alone warm to, the man.

Taking the Short view – a decision somewhat on the wild side of rash (James Lawton, The Independent) Yes, it is true there is no question that Sunderland’s situation had become critical even before Manchester United’s 1-0 victory pushed them to the lip of the drop zone, a fate that might just have been eased by the presence of O’Neill’s key forward, the injured Steven Fletcher, in a more boisterous second-half performance. But what the American is saying is that O’Neill, with seven games left, is no longer the best available man to protect his club’s status

Aston Villa 1 – Liverpool 2 – The Analysis

Liverpool put the squeeze on Villa with pressing performance (Michael Cox, The Guardian) Throughout this contest, the six central midfielders focused on breaking up play, rather than constructing passing sequences of their own. Aston Villa’s Yacouba Sylla was the best example of this defensive slant – the Frenchman concentrated on pressing Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva, who misplaced an unusually high number of passes, preventing Liverpool from controlling the game in the first half. But this meant Paul Lambert’s most advanced midfielder was primarily a destroyer rather than a creator, so Villa had to find their three attackers without him.