PAOLO Di Canio has pledged to improve the fitness levels of players in the final few weeks of the season after finding them wanting so far.
Sunderland’s new head coach says he was unsurprised his players faded in the second half of yesterday’s defeat at Chelsea, having had a week to assess his squad.
“Over the last few days, I have studied the players and I know exactly what they can give me in terms of energy,” he said.
“We have only a short time between now and the end of the season and we do not have the fittest team in the world.
“But we are going to work on giving them more and energy and more fitness in the next few days.
“We will see what happens because you cannot do that as much as you might have done in the first half of the season.
“It was unfortunate that Danny Graham had a problem with his knee, an injury he picked up on Saturday, because it left us short of strikers, but it is our duty to try getting that fitness in them.”
The new man at the helm was pleased, though, with how good his team looked before they started to fade away in the second half at Stamford Bridge.
“I was more than happy with the first half,” the Italian agreed. “The lads followed the strategy through very well.
“We were well organised and worked hard and when we went in at the break 1-0 up, I was very happy because I thought we deserved it – we had worked very hard.
“The second half was different because we suffered a real blow when they equalised within a minute of the restart.
“And then to concede another goal so soon afterwards – that was more to do with mentality than with physical fitness.
“So, as well as looking to improve fitness, we have to look to keep improving the mentality of the team too.
“I have noticed a difference in the players this week and I hope to continue seeing improvements.
“It is obvious that the players have lacked a bit of confidence and we can help put that into them.
“I’m pleased with the answers they are giving me – some of them told me that they have been very pleased with the work we have done this week.”
Di Canio, meanwhile, says he has no problem making the mental adjustment needed in switching from managing a League One side, to being in charge of a Premier League outfit.
“At Swindon, I used to prepare the players only for a win,” he said.
“At Sunderland, I prepare the players only for a win.
“But obviously it is very different when it comes to the quality of the opposition, so you have to adapt your strategy when you playing against some of the best players in the world.
“I am a manager though, a very good manager, and I don’t have a problem with it.
“I am focused completely on my players and giving them the best chance possible to do well in their jobs.”