PAOLO Di Canio says midfielder Cabral was left out of Sunderland’s starting 11 for “tactical reasons” at the weekend.
The Black Cats’ boss sprang a major surprise when he didn’t start the former Basle man against Southampton on Saturday.
By common consent, the 25-year-old was one of Sunderland’s best performers in the opening game of the season against Fulham.
And so it was a talking point when not only did Cabral not start but was also left on the bench when Sunderland came under great second-half pressure – the head coach turning to David Vaughan, rather than the summer signing, as his preferred substitute.
Asked why Cabral wasn’t used at St Mary’s, Di Canio said: “I did not play Cabral for tactical reasons, because Southampton play almost with a five across the middle and that presents its challenges.
“Southampton’s full-backs push on to the midfield three and so you have to find a way to cope with that with your own midfield.
“Cabral is a not a naturally aggressive guy and I needed someone in the middle like Craig (Gardner) who would do that job for us.
“The situation is that I have two wingers who are working incredibly hard offering us options, but they are not aggressive players and I also have Seb Larsson, who is working hard but is not that sort of ‘nasty’ player you need.
“When Southampton get five in midfield, they keep the ball very well and that’s why you need someone like Craig to disrupt them and produce the sort of natural aggression he did.”
The Italian felt even with Gardner snapping away in midfield – the combative Brummie was booked on his return from suspension – Sunderland were always in danger of being over-run.
And, in that context, the head coach was happy to leave the south coast with a point, even though Sunderland were just a couple of minutes away from what would have been a morale-boosting victory before Jose Fonte’s leveller.
He said: “I have no complaints about the draw because we could not, in all honesty, say we deserved the win.
“Southampton played better than us on the day.
“So for us to get a point out of the game is a good achievement.”