Former Leeds United man Dominic Matteo has claimed that summer signing Joel Piroe has an instinctive eye for goal, addressing fan concerns that the Dutchman is being played out of position by manager Daniel Farke.
There was widespread elation amongst the Elland Road faithful when, towards the end of this summer’s transfer window, Leeds secured the signing of Piroe from Swansea for an approximate £12m fee.
It was widely assumed that the 24-year-old would directly replace the outgoing Rodrigo – who was the Whites’ top scorer the previous season in the Premier League – by slotting straight into the number nine role. Given that Piroe had netted 20 plus goals across all competitions whilst playing in this position for Swansea for the last two consecutive seasons, this assumption was hardly unfounded.
Yet since his arrival in West Yorkshire Whites boss Farke has opted to play club record signing Georginio Rutter – acquired in January from Hoffenheim for a fee which could potentially rise to £35m – up front instead, leaving Piroe to occupy the deeper attacking midfield space behind the striker.
And whilst there have been periods in Leeds’ matches so far this campaign where Piroe has been deployed almost as a second striker, operating just as high – if not higher – up the pitch than Rutter, there is no denying that the number 10 position is where the former PSV man spends much of his time.
The quality of Piroe’s appearances for Leeds so far have – admittedly – been mixed, something nowhere better demonstrated than in his last two games in White. In a 3-0 home demolition of Watford two weeks ago came one of his best performances since joining the club, as he repeatedly combined with with Rutter to torment a beleaguered Hornets back line.
Yet in a poor 3-1 defeat away at Southampton over the weekend, the opposite, as Piroe struggled to exert any degree of influence over the game.
Despite this, Piroe remains the club’s top scorer for the season having scored four times so far this season, something which Matteo attributes to his natural goal-scoring instinct.
“We talked about getting an out and out goalscorer. He’s certainly lived up to that. It’s one of those with Piroe, he just knows where to be. People say he is playing too deep, I don’t agree.
“He times it perfectly to get into the box and the ball comes to him. His timing is really good. The best thing about him is he knows where to be.”
Piroe will be hoping to add to his tally for the current campaign when Championship strugglers QPR travel to Elland Road this evening, as Leeds seek to put Saturday’s disappointing result on the South Coast behind them.