“I feel well settled. The team and the club all helped me really well to settle in. It was a big decision for myself, I think it was a moment to try and make a big step.”
Those the words of Joël Piroe, the latest addition to Leeds United’s cache of attacking talent after his summer move from Swansea City. If there were to be any questions on the length of any settling-in period, initial performances in the white shirt emphatically put those to rest.
In his first 11 outings for the Whites, Piroe has scored five goals and registered one assist. Those five goals – a typically predatory strike in the win at high-flying Ipswich, a well-taken brace in a 3-0 victory at Millwall, the timely opener in the 3-0 demolition of Watford and a driven 20-yard strike against Bristol City – sees the forward average a goal just over every 180 minutes.
This deadly conversion rate has followed the trend of the Dutchman’s time in South Wales, where since the start of the 2021-22 campaign, no other player in the division has scored more than Piroe’s tally of 46. Fans would perhaps have assumed that in signing such a deadly marksman, the 24-year-old marquee buy would have slotted straight into the centre-forward position, not least given Patrick Bamford’s struggles with injury and Georginio Rutter’s slow start to life in West Yorkshire last season.
In Piroe however, Daniel Farke has a very intelligent and versatile player at his disposal who is just as adept at linking the play from deep as he is being on hand to fire home chances in and around the area. In a recent press conference, the Leeds boss took over ten minutes to explain the merits and limitations of each of his attacking options and which games and phases of play suit the likes of Piroe, Rutter, and Bamford best.
Used as a ten for the majority this term, former PSV academy star Piroe likes to drop and dictate the play, with a keen eye for a pass to exploit the explosive pace of Leeds’ wealth of attacking outlets in behind defences.
georginio was the standout yesterday but this ball from piroe deserves a mention pic.twitter.com/BhqiwbYY8h
— ellie may (@ellufc) September 24, 2023
Daniel Farke’s fluid system ensures that the Whites’ forward quartet often interchange and operate in spaces vacated by their teammates. Whilst onlookers may argue that three of Piroe’s five Championship goals to date have been simple finishes for a player of such quality, it is the anticipation and understanding of how the play is developing that sees Piroe making the movements and finding the space to be on hand to deliver the killer blow.
Off the field, Leeds’ newest sharpshooter has struck up a great relationship with fellow forward Georginio Rutter, and this is paying dividends on the pitch with the two already appearing to have a grasp on each other’s game and linking up well.
“I wouldn’t say teaching but we are talking a lot about football,” Piroe told the media. “He is a great lad and he is open to chat. I am close to 100 Championship games now so I can give him a little bit of experience of what the league will bring.”
The pair’s understanding was on show for the opener at Millwall, with Rutter ultimately playing in Piroe to finish off a lightning quick counter-attack.
😍 Poetry in motion! pic.twitter.com/QvMqJcjhS6
— Leeds United (@LUFC) September 17, 2023
The young Frenchman’s recent redemption arc has seen the forward go from being surplus to requirements under multiple managers last term, despite his hefty January price tag, to quickly becoming a fan favourite in the Championship. With trickery and dribbling Elland Road hasn’t seen since Raphinha’s departure to Barcelona, Rutter has made the habit of making such a mockery of his opponents that his manager has been quick to keep him grounded.
“Farke says he’s spoken to Rutter about making sure that when he plays, he doesn’t try to embarrass or disrespect opposition players. Can show his magic but needs to keep it under control,” wrote The Athletic’s Phil Hay after the striker’s one-man exhibition against Watford. A classier, more subtle approach to Neil Warnock’s ‘by all means enjoy it but enjoy it by being f*****g disciplined’ rally cry.
If embarrassing or disrespecting opposition opponents was something Daniel Farke looked for from his players, the A+ on Georginio Rutter’s report card would perhaps have still not given the young attacker enough credit in that display. Playing a key role in all of the goals that afternoon, his silky stepovers had the end product to match. It was the older brother who knew how to perform all the FIFA skill moves against the younger sibling still finding his way around the PlayStation controller.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) September 23, 2023
Leeds United’s pursuit of runaway duo Leicester City and Ipswich Town has been hampered by losses at Southampton and Stoke City, but the recent derby day dismantling of a woeful Huddersfield Town side sent a warning message to their promotion rivals.
It was another game in which Rutter was unplayable at times. Drifting to the left flank often to double up with the electric Crysencio Summerville, struggling Terriers defender Tom Edwards was subjected to a torrid opening 45 minutes. Piroe was on hand to set up the Dutch winger’s first of the afternoon before Rutter breezed past the Huddersfield defender to set up Summerville’s second and Leeds’ fourth.
🪄✨ “This is magic stuff!” pic.twitter.com/jZiY0RtLWA
— Leeds United (@LUFC) October 28, 2023
Rutter has already created 14 big chances in the EFL Championship so far this season. Unsurprisingly he leads the way in the division, seven clear of the seven created by second-place Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. That figure is extraordinarily impressive, considering Emiliano Buendía created 18 big chances in the entire season the last time Norwich City were champions under Daniel Farke.
Despite those defeats to Southampton and Stoke, it is five wins out of seven for the Whites who are finally starting to look like a side capable of bouncing back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Those promotion credentials will be put to the test this evening when the Whites face top-of-the-table Leicester in a mouth-watering clash at the King Power Stadium, but Leeds certainly have the firepower in Joël Piroe and Georginio Rutter to return to West Yorkshire with all three points.
By: Jack Douglas / @JDouglasSport
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / George Wood / Getty Images / Ben Roberts / Getty Images