What is going on at Sunderland?

The landscape at Sunderland is changing at quite an alarming rate, with Paolo Di Canio more than putting his own stamp on the club – with the Italian already well on the way to completely overhauling the squad he inherited.

Already nine players have been brought in – whilst several first team players have been moved on and more are expected to depart in the coming weeks. These departures haven’t exactly come cheap either, with Danny Graham and Alfred N’Diaye both being farmed out on loan for the season, despite O’Neil only signing the pair in January for a combined total of £8.6 million – not exactly making the pair worthwhile investments.

Of further concern is that Stephen Sessegnon, possibly Sunderland’s most creative and threatening player is believed to want away from the club – something which will only increase their much talked about goal scoring problems. Experienced Premier League campaigners Lee Cattermole, Craig Gardner and Phil Bardsley are all rumoured to be heading out the exit door. Nevertheless it does need to be noted that as yet the departure of these players are far from concrete, with the gossip columns keen to jump on the overhaul story.

Of the nine who have come in only two have experience of English football, making the method to the squad overhaul a real gamble.  It remains to be seen how many of these new faces will be first team regulars, with three of the new recruits aged 20 or lower. Jozy Altidore having cost £8 million will certainly be a first team regular and whilst he is a much improved footballer to the player we saw at Hull a few years back, there are still significant questions over whether he can succeed at Premier League level. Emanuele Giaccherini is another big money recruit and being a fully-fledged Italy international much is expected of him – again though there is no guarantee that he will adapt to the English game.

Bringing in rafts of players in one go is always a huge risk, given that there is no guarantee that these players will gel and if they do how long it will take – whilst the gelling process is even more unpredictable when signing players who are all trying at the same time to adapt to a new culture and playing style.

That said, Sunderland have been a side stuck in a rut for a number of years and you have to give Di Canio and the club credit for looking to change that. As much as you can argue that they need to keep their experienced campaigners, it’s hard to put forward a defence to the argument that for too long now these very players in question have done little to move Sunderland forward. Along with this it should not be ignored that of the influx of new personnel not all will go straight into first team, with several being brought in for the future. For all the players rumoured to be moving on there is still plenty of experienced heads likely to feature in the first team for example; Seb Larsson, Adam Johnson, Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Steven Fletcher – all players who should feature prominently should fitness permit.

Lazy comparisons have been made with QPR’s influx of new recruits last term and in the window before, however the difference here is that rather than signing ageing and some cases past it players looking for a quick pay cheque, Di Canio has targeted hungry individuals who will buy into his unique methods.

Di Canio’s approach could go one of two ways and the risk margins here are big – things could go up in smoke and the Black Cats could be staring down a relegation battle, or they might just finally break the shackles of the bottom half. After years of mid table underachieving and mediocrity Sunderland need some kind of injection of new life and who knows just maybe the passionate and eccentric Italian might just be the man to do it.