Di Canio inherits a Black Cats squad that are without a win in eight games and just one point clear of the bottom three, but he has insisted that they have the "desire" to play their way to safety.
"We are here for a mission and that is to keep the club in the Premier League," he told Sky Sports News.
"Obviously, I want the maximum ability and I have to be honest, I found a good bunch of lads with the desire and it's obvious that we are going to change a bit of the philosophy during training because I want maximum dedication and collaboration.
"To be honest, there is a foundation which is already very good. We have five or six players with a very professional ethic. We want to get out of this situation as soon as we can."
Di Canio begins his Sunderland tenure with a trip to Chelsea this weekend.