- Southampton signed Ross Stewart on transfer deadline but could have moved for a more well-rounded package.
- The player in question was wanted by the Saints and boasts better creativity in the final third.
- He’s also a lethal asset having scored 19 times last season.
Southampton head into the international break on a sour note having been on the end of a 5-0 thrashing against Sunderland and as a result, saw their unbeaten Championship record come to an end.
The Saints were outclassed in every department as the Black Cats landed ten shots on target, created six big chances and recorded an xG of 1.94, condemning the visitors to a miserable afternoon and one they’ll need to recover from after the internationals.
Since his arrival at the club, Russell Martin has engraved his possession-heavy style of football at St Mary’s but despite dominating the majority of games, have struggled to kill off their opposition, winning by a solitary goal in victories over Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Queens Park Rangers.
Falling short in front of goal so far, Southampton sought to improve their fortunes with the deadline day capture of Ross Stewart for a reported £8m from Sunderland.
What are Ross Stewart’s strengths?
Throughout his two-and-a-half-year stay at the Stadium of Light, Stewart was referred to as the “Loch Ness Drogba“, a nickname coined by supporters for his predatory instincts in front of goal and his ability to turn up in the big games.
There were many of those during Sunderland’s 21/22 campaign in League One as they battled tooth and nail to get out of the division at the fourth attempt, doing so through the play-offs with Stewart firing 24 goals in 46 appearances.
Following promotion, the 27-year-old picked up where he left off by scoring ten in his first 13 Championship games and although his season was curtailed due to injury, his time in the North East was hugely successful.
While a fully fit Stewart is capable of firing the Saints to promotion, he wasn’t the only striker linked to the club this summer, as Martin reportedly sought to sign Joel Piroe from Swansea City in an attempt to rekindle his love affair with the Dutchman.
Piroe, who scored 19 Championship goals last season, would have been a more prolific forward signing than the Scotsman.
How good is Joel Piroe?
Having chalked up an impressive 41 goals in 88 Championship appearances, Piroe was expected to be plying his trade in the Premier League this season, but it was Leeds United who won the race for his signature in a reported £10.5m deal.
Despite his predatory instincts seeing him deliver superb returns in front of goal, it’s his interplay that makes him more than a penalty box striker or a poacher. The 24-year-old is capable of operating in a deeper role in-behind with Daniel Farke using him as a number 10 against Ipswich.
Piroe demonstrates his play-making ability through an array of his passing stats, eclipsing Stewart in most metrics and displaying his ability to link play better than the Southampton man. That, combined with his deadly nature in front of goal makes him a truly dangerous proposition.
Across the 22/23 Championship season, Piroe bettered Stewart for pass completion (81.5%/68%), passes into the penalty area (0.85/0.26), progressive passes (2.40/1.99) and expected assists (0.10/0.03), as per FBref.
While the “clinical” and “dangerous” finisher, as dubbed by journalist Josh Bunting, surpasses Stewart for his efficiency in possession, their shooting and finishing stats align closely together, suggesting that Piroe wouldn’t be much of an upgrade in that department, although the sample size is larger for the Dutchman.
Stewart exceeds Piroe for shots on target (1.47/1.38), shots (3.71/3.32) and non-penalty xG (0.62/0.38) but these are fine margins when it comes to shooting as Piroe’s exploits at Championship point towards a player who is consistently lethal in front of goal.
With almost one goal every two games, signing the now Leeds star would have guaranteed consistent returns, whereas the recent part of Stewart’s career has been blighted by injury troubles so it could take him a while to get up to speed.
When the season is concluded in May, it’s highly likely that these two won’t be far behind the summit of the Championship scoring charts but given what Piroe could have brought to Martin’s possession-based system, perhaps he’s the one that got away this summer.