Leeds United goal menace Joel Piroe on Farke role surprise, freedom and Georginio Rutter talks
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The Dutchman arrived from Swansea City in the summer with a proven track record as a Championship goalscorer, thanks to 46 goals in 96 games. Piroe's addition ticked an important box for many around Elland Road because a number 9 has been so badly needed ever since Patrick Bamford ran into injury trouble two seasons ago.
The external expectation might have been for Piroe to play as the tip of Leeds' attacking spear, finishing off attacks and leading the line but that was not quite how the striker operated at Swansea. There, he represented something more akin to a hybrid of a 9 and a 10, linking up with midfielders and scoring plenty of his goals from in and around the edge of the area. Farke has been keen to explore that kind of profile and has been using the new boy as a 10, playing him behind Georginio Rutter.
"I think it has been a little bit of a surprise," said Piroe ahead of tonight's trip to Hull City.
"But the staff really explained it really well, how they want to see the runs and give me the space to play deeper as well. How they explained it to me, I think it's a role that really suits me as well."
At Ipswich and again at Millwall Farke's roles for Piroe and Rutter worked to near perfection, with both central forwards showcasing their ability to combine with one another or the wingers and, perhaps most crucially, both getting on the scoresheet. But it was the first of Leeds' three goals at The Den that best exampled Piroe's penchant for profiting from late arrivals into the box. A sweeping counterattack from the edge of their own area took Leeds into a three-v-three scenario and Piroe's run beyond Rutter allowed the Frenchman to slip the ball into his path once found by Willy Gnonto.
The goal, among the best the Whites have scored in recent memory, was one part coaching and one part freedom, according to Piroe.
"He gives us some trigger points to keep in mind, but he also wants to give us loads of freedom to just express ourselves and like work together really well," he said.
"I think [that goal] is both because they tried to coach me as well to work off Georgi of course. We all know that we need to be unselfish and look for each other and then just to let it happen like that. It's just our qualities as well, apart from good coaching."
With Bamford's return to team training this week, Farke is close to having his entire bank of attacking players fit and available. The strength in depth out wide, where Gnonto, Crysencio Summerville, Jaidon Anthony, Daniel James and Ian Poveda are all vying for places in the team, will be matched centrally by Piroe, Rutter and Bamford.
Until Bamford is up and running again in competitive football, Piroe and Rutter will continue to develop a partnership that is already yielding results on the field. Piroe has three goals in three games, Rutter has two in his last three and that assist for his strike partner. Against Sheffield Wednesday Piroe admits he played too far away from his attacking partner and that was worked on in training prior to Millwall, where things clicked a lot more effectively.
Off the pitch, the pair are actively discussing how to be even better together and Piroe is taking the lead.
"I wouldn't say teaching but yes, we're talking a lot about football," he said.
"He's a great lead and he's open to have a chat about it. I'm close to 100 championship games now and I can give him a little bit of experience of what the league will bring and needs as well. And yeah, he's very open just to have that conversation."