Why Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland Exit Should Surprise No One
Paolo Di Canio is out as Sunderland's manager, per the club's website. This announcement comes as little surprise to anyone who has followed the club's fortunes in recent days. Despite his clear attempts to show solidarity with his club's fans, Di Canio was out of step with his team and its supporters.
With Saturday's 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion, the Black Cats remained rooted to the Premier League table with one point from their opening five matches. Apart from last week's 3-1 loss to Arsenal—a match in which Sunderland had a perfectly fine equaliser ruled out incorrectly at 2-1—Di Canio's men have by and large performed poorly this season.
Following an opening-day loss at home to Fulham, Sunderland picked up their only point of the season in a 1-1 draw at Southampton on Aug. 24. Then came losses to Crystal Palace (3-1 away) and the aforementioned Arsenal and West Brom defeats.
All the while, Di Canio preached a tactical revolution, a new style that would presumably lift the Black Cats from the relegation zone and into mid-table or even beyond. But it didn't work, or as he would argue, it didn't get enough time to work. Instead, the revolution has ended prematurely, and we'll probably never know how it would have looked.
Not that it was likely based on the early results, of course. And not that Di Canio helped his own cause, either.
After the loss at West Brom, Di Canio accused his players of having "rubbish in their brains," as per David Kent of the Daily Mail. And it got worse.
"It's obvious we're still not together," Di Canio told BBC Sport after the match. "We don't have many leaders in terms of desire to play with a premier style. We had our chances to come back into the game but we missed them and conceded very silly goals."
Those aren't the words of a fearless leader bringing about a glorious revolution. Those are the words of a man searching for a scapegoat. And that's certainly not what Sunderland needed from their manager.
But that still wasn't the worst of it. Immediately after the final whistle, the Italian walked over to the traveling support and engaged the fans in a bizarre impromptu standoff.
The aim, according to Di Canio, was to admit that he understood the criticism that was coming his way. The way it played out, however, suggested insanity more than solidarity.
In fact, the incident almost became a tragic farce. A manager doomed for the axe was on the pitch desperately trying to win over fans. Those fans, meanwhile, simply rained down their scorn on him, effectively bringing his tenure to a close.
The criticisms might or might not have been warranted. Di Canio received precious little time to implement his revolution, and the rest of the season will determine whether his successor will fare any better.
But as Saturday's farce showed, Di Canio's revolution came to an abrupt end on the pitch at the Hawthrorns.
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