MODIBO DIAKITE will need several games before he shakes off the rust from a year on the sidelines, admits Paolo Di Canio.
Summer signing Diakite made his Sunderland debut in last weekend’s draw at Southampton and is expected to continue alongside John O’Shea at Crystal Palace on Saturday after being rested for the Capital One Cup tie against MK Dons on Tuesday night.
The 26-year-old failed to make a single appearance for Italian giants Lazio last season, predominantly due to injury, and suffered another setback when he first arrived at the Stadium of Light this summer after sustaining a hamstring strain on only the fourth day of pre-season training.
That restricted Diakite to just 20 minutes of action during Sunderland’s friendly programme.
But after handing the centre-half his Black Cats bow last weekend, Di Canio believes the Bosman arrival showed he will prove a success in the Premier League.
Di Canio told the Echo: “Obviously he didn’t play any games in Hong Kong and didn’t join us out there.
“You can imagine what it’s like too after one year without a real match.
“But there was a reason why I played him in a tough game at Southampton.
“He did very well, but it will take him a few games.
“It’s clear what he brings to the team. He’s not the the tallest one, but he jumps a lot and he has time on the ball which is crucial.
“One time he missed the ball completely, which I was worried about! But it can happen.
“Once the game settled, he did very well. It takes time to get your confidence back and communicate with your team-mates.
“But he is an intelligent guy and, although he’s not arrogant in any way, he’s sure about himself.”
Diakite’s lack of match fitness saw fellow summer signing Valentin Roberge preferred for the opening day of the season against Fulham, but the ex-Maritimo man’s error cost Sunderland in the 1-0 defeat to the Cottagers.
But Di Canio, who recalled Roberge against MK Dons on Tuesday, insists his selection at Southampton was tactical, rather than a punishment for the French defender. Di Canio added: “Diakite is good for me and it’s why I played him in a tough game.
“Roberge did very well the week before (against Fulham) and only made one mistake. I don’t change a player for one mistake.
“Otherwise, you have to change every player because every one makes mistakes every game.
“But it was a different type of game at Southampton.”