Sunderland’s Di Canio sticks with strike plan

Stephane Sessegnon and Danny Graham against Everton.
Stephane Sessegnon and Danny Graham against Everton.
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PAOLO DI CANIO aims to persist with two contrasting frontmen when he has a full quota of strikers to choose from.

Di Canio’s front pair has largely picked itself over his opening three games in charge, with Danny Graham injured for the head coach’s Sunderland bow at Chelsea and then Connor Wickham missing the back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Everton.

That has seen Stephane Sessegnon restored to the role behind the central striker, and the Benin international has responded with two goals in Sunderland’s last two games. But even when Di Canio’s has more attacking options at his disposal, his blueprint will remain along similar lines.

The Italian believes that having one member of the front two capable of dropping deep and linking the play with midfield is the best way of achieving the brand of football he wants for Sunderland.

Di Canio told the Echo: “Since I came in, this is the best way I’ve found to link the lines together.

“I prefer two different players and that might mean a number 10 like Stephane; someone who can receive the ball between the two lines.

“Once they turn, they can go one-v-one and beat their opponents with their ability or pick a pass.

“This is the football I want to see because as much as we can, I want to see the ball on the ground.

“With two centre-forwards, you can do that still, but you are more predictable because they don’t have 40 yards in their legs to beat their opponent.

“That’s not being negative about them, they just have different characteristics.”

However, Di Canio insists that Sunderland’s two principal targetmen, Graham and the injured Steven Fletcher, can still work together in tandem.

Martin O’Neill unsuccessfully attempted to deploy Graham and Fletcher as a double act during his final weeks in charge at the Stadium of Light.

But Di Canio believes that was because the pair were used in a static system, rather than the duo alternating to drop deep.

Di Canio added: “I saw the Norwich game when there was Danny and Fletcher. They can play together, but you need to use different mechanisms.

“One of them needs to drop.

“What I don’t want to see is two strikers playing too vertical.

“They always need to alternate position to offer an option. You have to cover different distances because if you’re vertical, no one drops into this space. Who links the play between the midfield?”