Sunderland's Wild Cards For The Coming Season

Victor Fraile

As the new season looms large and we can finally look forward to some actual football as opposed to the constant stream of transfer tittle-tattle which dominates our daily lives, it is time to dust off the old crystal ball and try and identify some wild cards for the coming term.

Vito Mannone Not To Be Shit

We might as well start as we mean to go on. Poor Vito, as well as having a head shaped like a novelty door wedge, Sunderland's new ‘keeper also joined the club with a far from stellar reputation based on his exploits, or lack thereof, with Arsenal.

The Italian had a flair for the unpredictable with the Gunners, however there was a spell back in 2009, in a game against Fulham especially, where the goalkeeper earned himself the man of the match award and won the plaudits of Arsene Wenger who predicted:

"He has the potential to be a very good goalkeeper"

While Mignolet's departure to Liverpool seemed to signal the automatic promotion of his deputy Keiren Westwood into the starting eleven, the arrival of Mannone has made this tussle for the number one shirt a lot more interesting.

Many will point at eight years at Arsenal, a spell where the former Champions have not exactly been blessed with outstanding talent, and Mannone's inability to break into the first team as reason to doubt his ability. However, given a decent run in the side, an arm around the shoulder and a kick up the arse from Paolo, he may just, finally, establish himself and live up to the potential which Wenger identified.

Jack Colback To Become Our Established Left Back

Yes, yes, I know we've been here before with the likes of Keiran Richardson, where many would believe we are "shoehorning" a player into an unfamiliar position and will lead a vocal protest for the recruitment of a "natural" left back.

Don't get me wrong, I would be over the moon if Sunderland's reported pursuit of Ally Cissokho was to come to fruition, as unlikely and fanciful as that may well be at this point. However, what if the answer to our problems is right under our nose, in the shape of the ginger general (I'm upgrading Jack from "scamp" to "general" given the size of the lad these days) Colback?

Much has been made of Jack's desire to leave in a bid for first team football in his desired position in the centre of the park but I'm sure he could be convinced by Di Canio's "way with words" that he could really make a name for himself at left back.

It is not a position Colback is unfamiliar with either, deputising there often in Danny Rose's absence last year, and when called upon he put in a bloody good shift for my money. His fantastic footballing brain, intelligence and care of the football would make him an ideal candidate should Sunderland's pursuit of a left back falter, yet again.

John O'Shea And Wes Brown To Marshal The Back Line

John O'Shea has his critics, this I am aware of, what can't be denied however is his overall influence on the side and the incredible wealth of experience he has under his belt. If the press conferences held in the Far East are anything to go by, O'Shea has certainly been adopted as his captain by Di Canio, which as well as speaking volumes for the trust and esteem the Italian has for the Irishman, but also the future for one Lee Cattermole, but that's another story.

Despite the summer additions of Diakite and Roberge, it would appear that O'Shea's partner in the centre of Sunderland's back four may well be one that no-one would have predicted and one that many may well have forgotten about altogether - Wes Brown.

O'Shea's former Manchester United team-mate looked in great physical shape during the Barclays Asia Trophy and came through the testing conditions unscathed. Di Canio was quite open in the media on Brown's future with Sunderland, or lack of, in that he had initially spoken with the defender to inform him he was not in his plans for the coming season.

However, such was the eye-catching nature of Brown's performances, both on and off the field in China, that the gaffer has been forced to re-evaluate his stance.

At this stage, Brown has well and truly forced his way back into the first team picture and while questions and fears over his substantial injury record will always remain, if he can stay fit he, alongside O'Shea, could very well prove to be an impressive defensive paring from which the team can build.

Cabral To Be The Pick Of The New Bunch

While Emanuele Giaccherini has caught the imagination of Sunderland fans since his high profile move from Italian giants Juventus, for my money it may well just be Sunderland's new midfield monolith that proves to be the best signing made this summer.

Cabral joined Sunderland to little fanfare from Europa Cup Semi-Finalists Basel and has been installed as Di Canio's first choice central midfielder. Quite who will "bring the keys to the house" and partner the Cape Verde man is unknown at this stage but what can be banked on is the influence and impact Cabral is set to have on Sunderland's midfield.

Cabral has an outstanding pedigree: five league titles, three domestic cups and appearances in both the Europa League and the Champions League. Indeed the commanding midfielder turned down interest from a number of clubs that could offer a return to the prestigious and much sought after Champions League competition, namely Arsenal, but opted for a new challenge at this stage of his career, rather than sit on the bench at the Emirates - which speaks highly of the bloke's character.

Despite the horrendous conditions in China, Cabral looked assured in the centre of the park, a real box-to-box midfielder, who wasn't shy in getting forward when possible, as shown with his equalising goal in Sunderland's opening game of the competition against Spurs, a goal which he finished with great aplomb.

Many fans bemoaned the departure of Alfred N'Diaye and I can perfectly understand why. He was a likable, naive, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of player, however N'Diaye was still raw, very raw. In Cabral we have a player tnat is already at a level that N'Diaye may well reach at some point in the future, but the important point there is, may.

Personally I fully expect Cabral to be something of a surprise package with more of an impact on the side than is probably expect of the new recruit by many at present.

Karlsson To Make Immediate Impact

When Sunderland snapped up the Swedish starlet from IFK Gothenburg, it was widely anticipated that the youngster was part of Di Canio's longer term vision for the club, very much "one for the future". However with Steven Fletcher set to miss the start of the season and Ji's future uncertain, there may well be an early chance for the new boy to make an impact, if from the bench.

Of course in his way stands perennial bystander Connor Wickham, who himself will be hoping to catch Di Canio's eye over the summer months and make his case for more first team football this year, and this will make for an interesting tussle between the pair.

It is refreshing as a Sunderland fan to go into a season with a squad from which we might actually be able to put together a bench of players that will be able to enter the fray, offer something a little different and in turn, hopefully, change the game. Hell, it will be a novelty to actually see a full complement of players sat behind Di Canio, I'm looking at you here O'Neill...

Noted for his explosive turn of pace and technically very astute, Moberg-Karlsson may just be the perfect impact player from the bench.

Di Canio Not To Implode

If various sections of the press and media that have been previewing the coming term are to be believed our gaffer is a ticking timebomb and an inevitable explosion is just around the corner.

Sure, it is a perfectly reasonable assumption to come to given the fiery Italian's demeanor and the passion with which he approaches every situation. We can accept that.

What is often overlooked however is that he also has the managerial nous to succeed. I'm not predicting Di Canio will be remembered alongside the greats of Clough, Shankly and Ferguson in years to come by, it is of course still incredibly early days in his fledgling managerial career. However it does appear easy for the media to overlook the fact that he is indeed a very studious and methodical coach.

Yes there are of course the theatrical, dramatic and zealous touchline celebrations that will no doubt ruin more designer suits over the course of his career, but he also has the qualifications to back up such swagger. Lest we forget that the Italian passed all of his coaching badges to UEFA Pro standard but he indeed excelled at each and every one.

While also predicting a meltdown, the press will no doubt be desperate for one, such will be their insatiable joy of an "I told you so" moment should Di Canio bite the bullet. I, however, would argue that Di Canio won't give them the pleasure, this season at least.

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