Paolo Di Canio last night backed his players to come good despite Sunderland stumbling in their first Premier League game of the season.
The Italian watched his side dominate Fulham on Saturday in terms of possession, and yet it was the Londoners who left the Stadium of Light having recorded a stuffy 1-0 win.
Di Canio has a clear idea of how he wants his team to play in terms of passing and keeping the ball, but he will ask his players to be more clinical in front of goal.
Sunderland’s manager was far from down after the defeat, but rued a missed opportunity to set down an early marker.
Di Canio said: “I said before the start of the season that I would be prepared to lose if we played very well, rather than win and play very badly.
“But when it finishes like it’s finished, I think that maybe a few points would be better. The only disappointment is when you dominate and don’t get anything.
“It’s not like we created ten clear chances, but we dominated in terms of possession of the ball.
“When you spend 80 minutes in your opponents’ half, and their only corner kick ends up at the back post and your player loses his man and they score a goal, it’s disappointing.
“That is the only negative thing. Our possession wasn’t really fluid, but we kept the ball and they didn’t lose their brain, except in the six or seven minutes after the goal, and that can happen. I can understand that. To be honest, the only team that tried to play football today and create clear chances was Sunderland. You have to be happy with that.
“We were in their half for 80 minutes and created some good chances. Not incredible, but there was only one team that deserved to win. You work on it and take the positives, but we have to work on the negatives.”
The most important negative was Fulham’s goal. Sunderland new man Valentin Roberge lost Pajtim Kasami at the back post, allowing him to score early in the second half.
Di Canio wants all the new signings to learn quickly that English football requires a more physical approach than what they’ve been used to.
He said: “The new players, especially those who came from abroad, have to learn from what happened. One corner kick can cost three points, even if you stay for 90 minutes in your opponents’ box.
“If we learn this, we will improve quickly. This is the best and toughest league in the world, especially from set plays. In Portugal, Italy and Spain, there are only one or two players over 1.85m.
“We have to be nastier. My central defender lost a younger guy at the back post without jumping, and that can be a problem. You may think it is not fair to point the finger at the player who made a mistake.
“He did well before that, but if this helps him improve, that is good. It cost us one point, minimum, because I couldn’t see any chance for them to score in the game.
“I’m not worried because we need to improve. If we don’t learn from it and think it was just an accident, we will have a problem in the future.
“In general, we can take many positive things from the game, but individual mistakes and the fact that for all the chances, we didn’t really create any clear chances didn’t make me enjoy the game.
“We have to work in the players’ brain. Playing attractive football doesn’t mean you have to be elegant in every area of the field. We must be nastier in the future. I don’t think the team has a clear identity yet, but a big part of the puzzle is clear. I know what I want.
“We have to learn a lot from what happened on Saturday. We dominated, but we came out with zero points.”
Di Canio insisted that Stéphane Sessègnon was not for sale, despite genuine interest in the player from Qatar.
The Sunderland boss said: “We have to speak privately with the board, but I don’t want to sell Sessègnon. I have to be clear on that. If someone wants to sell Sessègnon, they will have to think that they will have to bring a top central midfield player and a top striker.
“Not just someone for cover, or some kid who is still learning the game.”
Phil Bardsley will be asked to explain a tweet he sent out on Saturday that read: “Great opening day, hahahahahaha.”
The Scotland international has been bombed out by Di Canio following a picture surfacing in May of him lying on the floor of a casino.