Buidling Dreams Together


Joel Piroe: The Dutch Forward The Key To Swansea City’s Attack

It is early days into Swansea City manager Michael Duff’s tenure at the club, but signs are encouraging despite a few teething problems.

The Northern Irishman will look to continue the hard work from the previous regime to mount a serious Play-Off challenge in the EFL Championship this season. 

The key to reaching those lofty ambitions has been mapped out clearly from an early stage, a high work rate and a ruthless edge both on and off the ball. Whilst in front of goal, a clinical edge when chances come their way.  

Duff indicated that he wants the Swans to be ‘nastier’ before their final pre-season win against Reading addressing their lack of physical presence previously on his arrival to the club.

However, the instruction is not to dramatically alter the style and brand of football his side plays, acknowledging that he has been left with a ‘good base’ by his predecessor Russell Martin.   

Last season’s 10-game unbeaten run at the end of the campaign almost saw the Swans claim an unlikely place in the top six placings, eventually missing out by three points with forward Joel Piroe topping the club’s goalscoring charts for a second season in a row. 

Birmingham City will be the former Barnsley head coach’s team’s first challenge of the season next weekend as the Swans’ EFL Championship campaign kicks off at the Swansea.com Stadium. 

In 23-year-old Dutchman Piroe, Swansea have been blessed with a finisher who has been a revelation since his £1 million arrival from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2021.

Scoring at a strike rate of one in two in the English second tier, 41 goals in 88 appearances places Piroe in a select group of the league’s most deadly frontman.  

Joel Piroe and Jerry Yates combined against Reading as Swansea ran out 4-0 victors. Credit: Swansea City FC

There is much more however to Piroe’s game than his strike rate.

Since arriving in South Wales, the forward has been the Swans’ main outlet, but it is his link play and off-the-ball work rate that often goes unnoticed and that makes him such an asset to his side. 

Arguably Piroe’s lack of support at the top end of the pitch is one of the only factors eluding the Dutchman from reaching a higher tally than his already impressive strike rate.

Since the demise and eventual departure of Michael Obafemi to Burnley, Piroe has lacked a true strike partner to play off and utilise his imaginative creative football brain.  

Both Obafemi and Jamie Patterson had previously had spells of success in that role but have lacked the consistency to perform regularly in the last few years whilst Liam Cullen, the breakout forward in 2023 for the club, arguably lacks the physical presence of a traditional target man.  

It was no surprise to see the hard-working physical presence of Blackpool striker Jerry Yates brought to the Swansea.com Stadium to fill the void. Admired by many within the Championship for a credible 14 strikes in a team relegated to the third tier last season, the capture of the target man is somewhat of a coop at £2.5 million. 

Many felt this was to fill the enormous shoes of Piroe, but on initial sight, it’s to get the best out of Swansea’s number 17, with signs at Reading’s Select Car Leasing Stadium that even at this early stage the two forwards have started to build a connection combining for three of the game’s four goals. 

Joel Piroe has scored 40 goals for Swansea in the last two Championship campaigns. Credit: Swansea City FC.

The biggest dilemma Duff and the Swansea board have is that Piroe is in the last 12 months of his three-year contract at the club posing uncomfortable questions and sleepless nights.

Do the club cash in between now and the end of August when the transfer window slams shut or let the player run down his contract and risk losing significant income? 

To navigate through the Championship minefield is no easy feat. Duff has experienced it as a player in a team much like the Swans working on a much lower budget than its powerhouse big-name rivals.

His arrival comes across as a good fit with the club hoping their new manager can repeat his success at Cheltenham and Barnsley. 

In recent history, the Swansea way has been to showcase a side that can entertain playing football whilst molding young talented players from their academy with experienced players with a point to prove.

This has always been done within the club’s structured budget and savvy business acumen in mind, bringing a squad of players together with a strong bond and team ethos.  

The latest indication about Piroe is that the player is happy and will give his all for the club but will move on if the right figure and club come in for him.

If the history of the Swans’ transfer dealings tells us anything though, Duff will already have a potential ‘Plan B’ if the Dutchman leaves. 

The Swans fan base will be desperate for their American owners to pull out all the stops to keep the player, but will know that even if the £15-20 million comes back into the transfer kitty, it will be a tough task to find a replacement of Piroe’s calibre.  

That is before taking into account the reluctance that many clubs will be unlikely to sell their assets on the eve of a campaign. There is also the factor to consider settling a player into life in South Wales with the club’s philosophy and style of play. 

So, the question is does the Swansea board stick or twist?

One thing is for certain, without Piroe, Swansea will pose less of a threat to the upper reaches of the table. With him, whilst unfancied by many, the Swans may cause a few shocks, just like in 2011 when the last Northern Irishman in the hot seat, a certain Brendan Rodgers, oversaw promotion to the Premier League. 

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