The Black Cats have taken one point from their opening two Premier League games and have mustered just one goal from Emanuele Giaccherini.
Di Canio told reporters: "Last year, his goals were very important, but he can be even more crucial and play in some way for his teammates because he has got talent, he has got quality.
"In the way we want to play, even if we are only at the start of our season and the beginning of our project, we are going to play not with him alone up front and hope that he can do something.
"Even in a game that wasn't very good or perfect at Southampton, we arrived there, but two or three times the ball was there in the first half and we didn't have a killer instinct, something that he has got."
Sunderland face Crystal Palace on Saturday at Selhurst Park.