ALFRED N’DIAYE says Paolo Di Canio’s attention to detail is seeing Sunderland take a more forensic approach to their tactical preparations.
Di Canio’s era as Sunderland head coach began with a defeat at Stamford Bridge yesterday after two goals inside the first 10 minutes of the second half saw Chelsea wipe out Cesar Azpilicueta’s opener on the stroke of half-time.
But there was plenty of encouragement from the relegation-threatened Black Cats, predominantly in the first half, as they displayed a marked improvement from the side which has plummeted towards the drop zone over recent weeks.
N’Diaye is understandably wary of criticising Di Canio’s predecessor Martin O’Neill, but has revealed that the Italian has adopted a contrasting regime on the training ground.
The French midfielder told the Echo: “The new manager is obviously different than Martin O’Neill. We’ve done a lot of tactical training over the last week.
“We obviously didn’t have too much time before the Chelsea game. But sometimes, we’ve not even been working with the ball, just doing tactical stuff on the pitch in groups.
“I don’t want to say Martin O’Neill was a bad manager. They’re both good managers, just with different approaches. But we’re all enjoying it.”
N’Diaye admits it was a shock for the players to learn of O’Neill’s dismissal and Di Canio’s appointment, which both occurred within 36 hours of Sunderland’s defeat to Manchester United nine days ago.
“After the game against Man U, the coach told us we were in for training on Monday,” said N’Diaye. “I just thought I’d come in as normal on the Monday and Tuesday.
“But when I was at home, the secretary texted me to say there was a change of coach. It was a big surprise for me.”
But despite a new regime, it was a familiar story for Sunderland yesterday after they succumbed to a sixth defeat in eight Premier League outings, courtesy of Matt Kilgallon’s own goal and Branislav Ivanovic’s fortuitous deflection.
Only goal difference now separates Sunderland from the relegation zone after Saturday’s victory for Aston Villa at Stoke and Wigan’s last-gasp equaliser at 10-man QPR yesterday.
And N’Diaye admits that points, rather than performances, are all that matters for Sunderland as they prepare for next weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby.
The 23-year-old said: “Now we don’t have a choice. We need to win games, against Newcastle and Everton.
“Every time we think we play well and fight, it doesn’t matter. We need points.
“We’ve not won a game in two months and that’s not good. It’s not normal.
“Everybody was disappointed because as a minimum, we wanted to a draw from the game yesterday. We thought we could get that. In the first half, we looked dangerous and had chances.
I thought we played very well and were unlucky because Chelsea only had two or three chances to get a goal.
“Just before they equalised, we had a corner and 30 seconds later, they scored. That’s not good.
“It’s not good mentally for us to concede so early in the second half. We went into half-time 1-0 up, we had a corner and 30 seconds after, they’d scored a goal.
“It’s very bad that things like that can happen.”