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Match analysis: Sunderland beaten by Arsenal
IT IS fair to say that Paolo Di Canio knows a fair bit about anger management.
The Sunderland manager, who was famed as a player for his angry outbursts including shoving referee Paul Alcock in 1998 at Hillsborough and starting a fight with Fabio Capello while at AC Milan, has mellowed with age, despite being sent to the stands at the end of Sunderland's 3-1 defeat to Arsenal for a difference of opinion with referee Martin Atkinson.
But Di Canio called on his players to show some anger after an insipid 45 minutes against the Gunners which saw the visitors create five clear-cut scoring chances including a fine goal by Olivier Giroud.
Giroud's 11th minute goal was cancelled out after half-time by Craig Gardner's penalty, before Aaron Ramsey volleyed home on 67 minutes, and Di Canio wants his squad to show some 'fire' going forward.
“I am not worried. I am happier today than after Crystal Palace,” said Di Canio. “That might sound strange but it is only the fourth game of the season not the 20th. The performance made me more confident than after Crystal Palace.
“Many players were playing together for the first time and from what I have seen I am coming away feeling positive but I suppose it means nothing because we lost.
“If we don’t like this fire at the moment we will have a problem.
“We have to be more angry with ourselves. We need to fight more at West Brom otherwise we will have problems.
“It is not easy playing our football against Arsenal especially when we go 1-0 down.”
Defeat to Arsenal, in a game in which £43m Mesut Ozil made his debut for the Gunners, sent Sunderland to the bottom of the Premier League table, but Di Canio still feels his side will come good once they have gelled together.
“I expected 12 points from four games but we have to be realistic, we should have six, and I don’t say unfortunately one because it is not Paolo Di Canio,” said the manager, who handed debuts to Ki and Charis Mavrias, with the latter replacing the injured Emanuele Giaccherini.
“Our season starts every week but the real value you will discover in the next 12/13 games, even if we stay at the bottom with six points form fourth place, we still have 25 games to go.
“We are going to get some points I am sure, we will have O’Shea and Giaccherini back and I have many options to choose from and get the right subs.
“The team will know the system and in four months’ time we will know each other better and they will have more physical condition, more hunger and better communication, so I am not worried.”
Sunderland were, by Di Canio's own admission, 'too shy' in the first half, with Arsenal carving through the Black Cats' midfield time and time again. In the second half, they were much-improved, and should have been level but for a remarkable refereeing decision by Martin Atkinson.
Jozy Altidore tussled with Bacary Sagna, before finishing past Wojciech Szczesny. But Atkinson pulled it back for the original foul by Sagna without playing the advantage. Ramsey made matters worse minutes later when he clipped home Arsenal's third of the afternoon on 76 minutes.
Di Canio said of the incident: “It's not my opinion. It's not a challenge in the box where you can make a decision. The referee had the power to wait. Finish the moment and make a decision, he has to wait. This is not Paolo Di Canio, this is the rule.
Paulo Di Canio shows his frustration on the touchline
“He made a mistake. There is no opinion, it is clear. Nobody can say 'no I don't agree'. In terms of the decision, it was a clearly wrong decision. There is nothing wrong to say because it can happen to everyone.”
The visitors were sublime in the opening 45 minutes, with Ozil at the centre of everything. Theo Walcott could have had four goals as Arsenal and Ozil repeatedly tore into a jittery Sunderland backline shorn of captain OShea, who was suspended.
But Sunderland came out of the blocks in brighter fashion for the second half, and after Adam Johnson was felled by Laurent Koscielny, Atkinson awarded the spot kick. Gardner, a half-time substitute for the ineffective Vaughan, rifled home the penalty.
Steven Fletcher, handed his first start under Di Canio, thought he had taken the lead when he swept home Johnson's centre but was offside.
Arsenal took the lead for the second time when Ramsey volleyed home Carl Jenkinson's cross, before the Altidore incident somewhat spoiled the game. The Welshman went on to exchange a couple of passes with Giroud before finishing neatly to seal the points.
Regardless of the defeat against Arsenal, Di Canio is happy to take the positives from the game.
“In 20 games time if we are still at the bottom, we lose, then I am angry. Now? No,” he explained.
“The lads did a fantastic job in the second half “The fans might be unhappy, we only have one point and they might be thinking `what is going on?’ but we are going to win more games than last year and if we do that we stay up. If we win 12 games we are up – 36 points and then we will draw some games as well – 43, 44.
“Once we win three, four games in a row, listen to me now, we will play good football, we need to keep going and work together, maybe the same team for three or four games. We want to use 23 players but 13,14 are more useful. We have to be honest some are key, then the job will be good.”
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