“It means you don’t care. It means you don’t care nothing about the club so your time is gone. It was the opportunity to say for everybody, and especially for him, ok, time to go,” said Paolo Di Canio when asked to explain his decision to part ways with Stephane Sessegnon.
The Benin international was arguably the highest-profile casualty of the tornado of change that has swept through the Stadium of Light this summer in the shape of the former Swindon manager.
Even for a man like Di Canio, who wears ruthlessness on his sleeve, selling one of the club’s star performers over the last two seasons might seem an hazardous decision.
Except that it isn’t. In fact, Sessegnon’s departure could benefit both Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion who, incidentally, meet tomorrow afternoon at The Hawthorns and both will feel they should be higher up on the table.
Sessegnon was arrested for drink-driving the night Sunderland beat MK Dons in the Capital One Cup, prompting Di Canio to sell him but, off-field antics aside, there’s no disputing Sessegnon’s qualities on the pitch.
The 29-year-old was one of the few shining lights for the Black Cats in the past two seasons, over which he registered 14 goals and 17 assists in 71 Premier League appearances.
As Di Canio has admitted, Sessegnon’s departure leaves Sunderland a playmaker short, but the Italian has hinted the 4-4-2 line-up that made his debut against Arsenal last week will replace the 4-5-1 which saw Sessegnon play off the shoulder of the main striker.
In their opening game of the season against Fulham, which turned out to be Sessegnon’s last start for the club, the 29-year-old attempted 22 passes in the final third, completing 19 of them but Sunderland failed to create any clear cut chances.
Sunderland’s passing game saw them completing 102 passes in the final third against Fulham, two more than they attempted in the whole 90 minutes against Arsenal, when none of the 18 top pass combinations featured two Sunderland players.
The partnership between Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore obviously offers Sunderland different options up-front, a route Di Canio seems keen to pursuit, particularly as in Emmanuele Giaccherini and Adam Johnson Sunderland have players capable to create chances.
Sessegnon’s arrival, on the other hand, could provide West Brom with the spark they’ve been missing so far.
Romelu Lukaku’s departure deprived the Baggies of powerful presence up-front, but while the Belgian contributed with 17 goals last season, his departure alone doesn’t justify the goal drought that has crippled the Baggies in the first four games of the season.
Gareth McAuley’s last minute equaliser at Fulham last week, was West Brom’s first Premier League goal this season, as Steve Clarke’s men have struggled to create clear cut chances in the opening weeks of the campaign.
The Baggies have averaged 42% of possession in their first four games and a mere two shots on target per game, a meagre return for a side boasting the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Victor Anichebe and the promising Matej Vydra.
Sessegnon’s ability pick a pass and unlock defences could see Steve Clarke switch to a 4-5-1 with the former Sunderland man behind the main striker,
Should Steve Clarke opt for a more attacking approach, Sessegnon could be deployed wide on the left in place of Morgan Amalfitano in a traditional 4-4-2 with Anelka and Anichebe up-front, but the Benin international’s defensive contribution – or rather lack of – makes it unlikely.
On Saturday, Sunderland and Sessegnon meet for the first time since parting ways and will try to convince each other that one of them has made the right decision. The answer to that question could go a long way in determining Sunderland and West Brom fortunes this season.