Sunderland news

Di Canio lays down challenge

April 16, 2013

After criticising Sunderland's fitness Paolo Di Canio is now targeting their goalscoring credentials in a bid to keep them in the Premier League.

Paolo Di Canio celebrates Stephane Sessegnon's opener at St James' Park
PA PhotosPaolo Di Canio's main goal threat, Steven Fletcher, is injured for the rest of the season

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The club's top scorer, Steven Fletcher, will miss the rest of the season through injury leading to a responsibility on the other outfield players to take their chances.

Sunderland only scored six goals in Martin O'Neill's last eight games at the helm and Di Canio is in no doubt about the importance of increasing that ratio markedly.

"It will help to create more chances," he said. "People like (Adam) Johnson, who in the past used to run 70 yards with the ball and then arrive at the edge of the box and be empty in the legs without the chance to strike - maybe now there will be a chance that sometimes he can get the ball near the box and use his talent and maybe strike on goal.

"It's exactly the same on the other side with James (McClean) or Sebastian (Larsson). From the middle, one midfield player always has to attack the edge of the box so with a rebound, we are not 60 yards or 40 yards from the goal, we are close.

"The mechanism and the system will help this team to cancel out the fact that we don't have a top scorer who can turn the game on his own. In any instance near the box, we are going to find a way to score, I am sure. The fitness has grown a bit and the belief is higher that we are going to score enough goals to stay up."

Sunday's 3-0 derby win against Newcastle gave Di Canio heart that he will be able to keep Sunderland in the Premier League but he now needs to transmit that message to his confidence-lacking players.

Di Canio added: "Before this game, there were people who are real warriors thinking, 'If we lose against Newcastle, we stay down there. What's going on? We are maybe going to lose some places'.

"I said, 'Calm. We are going to win, we are going to relax, recover energy and maybe we can go out [of trouble] earlier than we thought'. But once again, it's a little step, it's a very, very important little step forward."