It’s been about a week since the outspoken Italian lost his job as head coach of Sunderland, but were the Black Cats right to dismiss the man who helped rescue them from the depths of relegation last season?
Firstly, let’s examine the trigger factor of the sacking. It followed a training-ground row after the 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, in which Di Canio criticised the players for their less than spirited performance. We’ve all seen the controversial Italian openly criticising his players in the press, so what made this particular disagreement so decisive in the board of directors’ eyes? My guess is that it wasn’t.
Sunderland had only taken one point from their opening five fixtures, and looked like the QPR team of last season; just a bunch of separate players playing their own style instead of as a team. We all know how that turned out for Harry Redknapp’s side. A key reason for this would be the incredulous number of signings Di Canio made over the summer, 14 in total, with none of them bringing true quality to the side. Perhaps 5 fixtures was too little a time to judge the viability of Di Canio, but the sacking would not have been uncalled for. The results just weren’t good enough.
Another underlying factor would be the ex-Lazio man’s coaching style. Very authoritarian in nature, Di Canio wanted his players to change their game to fit his style, leading to a number of senior players being dropped for their inability to adapt quickly enough. Lee Cattermole, the man who instigated the training-ground row, was one such player. Di Canio’s forceful style might have worked at the lower leagues, but in a top tier team filled with large paychecks and even larger egos, it was never going to work.
Di Canio’s sacking was not a sudden and rash decision, there was tension building up from the time he was hired. The Italian time bomb could never have been a long term solution, and was a mismatch for the Wearside outfit from the beginning. Now he’s won the race no manager wanted to win, and Sunderland have to scour the globe for their next manager.