Piroe: Strike partnerships, new roles & Leeds aims

24 October 2023 0 By Total Football News

It is a pairing in its early stages, and they may have a few kinks to iron out, but Joel Piroe still breaks into a smile when he thinks about his blossoming strike partnership with Georginio Rutter at Leeds United.

“There are still some bits we need to work on, but we’re growing every day and really getting to know each other,” the forward tells Sky Sports after winning the Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month award for September – for a fine team move that ended with Piroe being found in the box by his fellow striker.

“We know about what we both have and we are just trying to make it work better and better.”

On the face of things, Piroe and Rutter look like two No 9s trying to fit into the same role. But the reality is more an exhibition of movement, combination and fluidity.

Piroe, a superb goalscorer who joined from Swansea in the summer, is now excelling in his new role as a second striker.

“I think this might be my best position,” he says. “The team is set up so we’re playing as two strikers who swap roles every now and again, and I think it brings the best out of both of us. I think we’ll only get better as well.”

It is a burgeoning strikeforce reminiscent of an elite axis in the Premier League. Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez have made a similar system work at Manchester City, as two strikers learning to play together, rather than getting in each other’s way.

Piroe knows that level is some way off where Leeds, Rutter and himself currently are, but there are always lessons that can be learned from studying such players.

“I love to watch big Premier League and Champions League games, and I like to see how Haaland and Alvarez work,” he says.

“There are some similarities. You see the runs Haaland makes, that’s something we can add to our game. It’s about making sure we have all the positions covered, so we can be even more effective than we are now.

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“But those guys work so hard to get better every week, it shows what we have to do to improve as well.”

Piroe is also often keen to observe those who play further back, to learn about what it takes to excel outside the box as well as in, adding strings to his bow.

“I also like to watch guys who play in a deeper role like Martin Odegaard at Arsenal,” he continues. “It is good to analyse and see what they do in their positions as more of a second striker, to see when you want to be a midfielder, and when to play like a striker at the right moments.”

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Norwich and Leeds

After such an uncertain summer and having not secured a move from Swansea until a week before the end of August, it shouldn’t be underestimated how impressively quickly Piroe, still just 24, has taken to his role at Leeds.

It was, after all, a club that had to deal with relegation, a whole heap of uncertainty and upheaval, and gel under a new manager.

Yet his arrival coincided with a goal and their first win of the season, as they beat Ipswich 4-3.

“I’ve settled in really well,” he says. “The club have helped me. They tried to give me as much information as possible to help me adjust and fit in, but they didn’t try and overdo it.

“Scoring goals is something that helps. It makes you feel like you’re contributing and it makes life easier.”

Joel Piroe celebrates after doubling Leeds' advantage at Millwall

Image: Joel Piroe celebrates after doubling Leeds’ advantage at Millwall

Leaving Swansea, who had given him his chance in England and provided him with so much success in front of goal, was a tough choice. But he knew he had to move on if he wanted to progress, even though it made for a challenging summer.

“Of course you go in every day and work your socks off and focus on what you have to do, but it was quite difficult,” he says. “Even if you try to block out all the noise, you are having conversations, and you always hear or see things.

“It was a lot to think about, but because it’s my career I had to make a choice.”

When Leeds came calling he simply couldn’t resist.

“I had a chat with the manager and he made clear what the ambitions of the club are and what they want to achieve,” he continues. “I wanted to do the same things as the club, so it made sense for me to make the move.

“I saw the squad and the potential there, and I knew it was somewhere I wanted to be.

“There are so many good individual players here, and it is really enjoyable trying to make it all work together. It is something we can still improve upon, and we are doing that all the time.”

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Norwich and Leeds

Leeds have won three on the bounce and are really motoring along now under Daniel Farke as they aim to bounce straight back out of the Championship.

Piroe knows the expectation, but he relishes the challenge as he chases his own dream of reaching the Premier League.

“I enjoy the pressure,” he says. “It’s really nice and you just feel it everywhere you go. Even in away games you feel it.

“I’ve played against some of the teams who get relegated, but to go up there and really feel what the competition is like, that’s the dream and the goal. It’s what we want to achieve.”

The challenge they face is that they are now trying to chase two teams down who have begun like an express train in Leicester and Ipswich.

Piroe is unfazed, mind. His experience of the Championship tells him not to worry. And he knows all Leeds can do is get their own work done.

“After two years in this league I know anything can happen,” he says. “You see some teams start well and go downhill.

“We just need to focus on ourselves, to keep winning and try to catch them.”

With Piroe alongside Rutter up top, and the talent they have around them, Leeds have a real chance of doing just that.