PAOLO Di Canio says summer signing Cabral has failed to feature in recent Sunderland games because he is not performing as well as the players now ahead of him in the pecking order.
Many Black Cats fans have been baffled by the way the former Basle midfielder has dropped out of the first-team picture at the Stadium of Light in recent weeks after a good pre-season and an impressive debut in the season opener against Fulham.
He was unimpressive in the Capital One Cup game against MK Dons which followed and was substituted on the hour in that match.
But many supporters expected the 24-year-old (pictured, right) to be a first-team regular this season – especially with defensive midfielder Lee Cattermole out of the picture – and were surprised that Cabral did not even make the bench for the visit of Arsenal at the weekend.
Asked directly about his missing midfielder, Di Canio claimed there was no mystery in the Cape Verde international’s absence – it was simply he had not shown enough in training to warrant his inclusion.
“At this moment in time, I think I have a better footballer who can give me a better job in the middle than Cabral,” he said.
“I have players with a bit more fire, more high-tempo and physical presence.
“Obviously little David Vaughan does not have much physical presence but he is sharp.
“He did not do so well against Arsenal but in the last two games he has been one of our best players.
“He is sharp and plays the game in England better than Cabral, who has a slow pace at this moment.
“And Ki Sung-Yeung – even if he looked tired in the second half against Arsenal – he has quality, he keeps the ball and is calm.
“Arsenal have very good aggression through Ramsey and Flamini and they put you under pressure but my midfielders did well overall.
“And then in the second-half Craig Gardner came on and he added fire and did very well. So at this moment it is difficult for Cabral.
It does not mean he will not play for me in the future but I have to be honest and say it is difficult for me right now – I say ‘one day’, if he shows he understands his football.
“You have to work so hard against the top sides, you have to change gear, change pace and Cabral has found that difficult. But we will see what happens.
“At the moment he is behind three other players who have got ahead of him.”
Cabral’s task might get even harder in the next few weeks with Di Canio holding out an olive branch to ex-skipper Lee Cattermole. who is now back in full training.
And it is clear that the head coach has been impressed with on-loan Swansea midfielder Ki, who looks set for an extended run in the side.
“Ki is a good player. I like him,” he enthused. “Very good. Once he understands the others and understands the way we play and that we have to work together more, be sharper, be stronger, he will be a good player for us.”