Philosophies, strategies, blueprints, gameplans. Whether in politics or football all are vital but awkward to implement without the right people in key positions.

There was much to applaud about Sunderland's play from the back and comfort in possession, yet with a broadly 4-2-4 system seemingly integral to Paolo Di Canio's brand new vision, a strong central midfield playmaker and prolific strikers are still required.

Sunderland's lack of such components explained why Fulham scored from their sole real chance – Pajtim Kasami's header at a poorly defended Damien Duff corner – after being dominated by a home team who, nonetheless, were generally restricted to half chances after struggling to get behind the excellent Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes.

Di Canio's problem is that Ellis Short, Sunderland's owner, has already invested about £30m on 10 players during a "revolutionary" Wearside summer and was unwilling to become involved in an auction with Hull for Tom Huddlestone, the former Tottenham midfielder.

The mutually acceptable compromise seems to be for Short to sell the gifted but erratic Stéphane Sessègnon – wanted by Qatar's El Jaish – to part-fund reinforcements in midfield and attack. "I don't want to sell Sessègnon," said Di Canio. "But if someone wants to sell him they will have to bring me a top central midfield player that can feed my strikers and wingers quickly and a top striker. Not just someone for cover or some kid who is still learning."

For all the diplomatic talk about being keen to retain Sessègnon, Sunderland's manager gave the impression that, in exchange for the right recruits, he would happily drive the Benin forward to Newcastle airport himself.

"I don't oblige the club because fortunately I don't have this power," said Di Canio. "I know we have to be sensible. We have spent – although much less than in the past, much less. We have brought in 10 players but there have been exits. We have done very well and brought in players with much less money spent but I have to help the club to open their eyes.

"I can't criticise my club at all because they have already spent money but obviously if they can make more sacrifices it would be better. It will help the company because if we stay up the company will be a healthy company. I know Ellis has no problems in terms of money but the club in general can be better."

Gut instinct persuaded Martin Jol – whose impressive goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg sustained a shoulder injury that could sideline him for a fortnight – to select Kasami ahead of the more experienced Bryan Ruiz.

Kasami responded by not only losing Valentin Roberge at Duff's decisive corner but playing intelligently throughout as Fulham cast a shadow across Sunderland's brave new world.

Man of the match Pajtim Kasami (Fulham)