Swansea City squad stronger than last season despite Joel Piroe sale, says Paul Watson

Joel Piroe celebrates a goal
Joel Piroe scored 46 goals in 96 Swansea appearances

Sporting director Paul Watson believes Swansea City's squad is stronger now than it was at the end of 2022-23 despite the loss of Joel Piroe.

Watson says Swansea were left with little choice but to sell Piroe because of his contract demands.

The man responsible for running Swansea's football operations is convinced results will soon improve under Michael Duff.

"This was always going to be a transition period," Watson said.

"We are hoping that we can come out of that sooner rather than later.

"It's been tough [at the start of the season], but there have been elements that have been right and we can see progression."

Watson was officially unveiled at Swansea just as the transfer window opened at the end of June.

The Championship club appointed Duff as their new head coach this summer following the loss of Russell Martin and a number of his backroom team, while American businessman Andy Coleman became Swansea chairman in May.

There have also been numerous changes to the playing squad, with Piroe - Swansea's leading scorer in the last two seasons - following the likes of Olivier Ntcham, Morgan Whittaker out of the club.

Joel Latibeaudiere and Ryan Manning, two regulars under Martin, left having failed to agree new contracts at Swansea while loan signings Luke Cundle and Matty Sorinola also departed.

Ryan Manning at Swansea last season
Ryan Manning was named Swansea's player of the year in 2022-23

They have signed Jerry Yates, Mykola Kuharevich, Josh Ginnelly, Nathan Tjoe-a-on, Josh Key, Kristian Pedersen, Josh Tymon and goalkeeper Nathan Broome on permanent deals.

There have also been five loan signings in Carl Rushworth, Harrison Ashby, Bashir Humphreys, Charlie Patino and Jamal Lowe.

"I think we have done what we set out to do on the first day, which was to improve the squad come hell or high water," Watson said.

"We will hopefully be stronger for it now. It can be better again and that's what the next window is for and the window after that."

Swansea sold Piroe to Leeds in the final days of the summer transfer window after failing to tie him to a new contract.

Leeds are understood to have paid an initial £10.5m for Piroe, who joined Swansea from PSV Eindhoven for £1m rising to £2m in 2021.

Piroe was in the final year of his contract in Wales, though Watson says at one stage the Dutchman "indicated" he intended to stay at Swansea.

"We ultimately wanted to try to keep Joel, but what he wanted and what his representatives wanted wasn't within the structure of the football club," Watson said.

"We felt we couldn't break that structure because of the knock-on effect. That was coupled with an offer that came in. We had an internal valuation and that was met and exceeded in some contingents.

"When you are getting a return on an investment, he had indicated that he wasn't going to sign a new contract and you can't compete with a club who have parachute payments, that all came to a point where you say 'what do we do? We get the absolute best for the football club'.

"We can get something we can then re-invest and strengthen as we go.

"We plan to do that. We have brought Jamal as a shorter-term fix, but there will be a longer-term solution looking in January and next summer."

Nathan Wood in action for Swansea
Nathan Wood joined Swansea from Middlesbrough for around £400,000 in 2022

While Piroe left, Swansea fended off interest from Southampton in centre-back Nathan Wood.

The Saints made three bids for Wood, the last of which is thought to have been worth an initial £8m.

"Nathan is a young English central defender - they are sought after," Watson said.

"There was a valuation on him that wasn't anywhere close to being met.

"I spoke with Nathan, the same as I did to Joel, and said I would be fair and honest. We see his future here, we think he can improve here and ultimately he said 'okay, that's where I am, I am happy to stay and happy to play'."

Wood has played all five of Swansea's league games to date this season, with Duff still chasing his first second-tier win as his side prepare for a trip to Cardiff City on Saturday, 16 September.

Swansea, who finished three points outside the play-offs in 2022-23, are in the bottom three of the early-season table after an unconvincing start to the new campaign.

Watson says Duff is beginning to make his mark after the hectic transfer window, with four deadline-day recruits in contention to make their debuts in the derby.

"Every day, every week that goes by, we can see he (Duff) is settling in more and getting more out of the players," Watson added.

"He is getting his ideas across every day and this week's been really good for that. Yes we are missing two or three with the internationals, but it's been really good to hone in on where we want to go.

"Now we have got the squad that we want and the window's closed, we are not worried about who is coming or going, it's 'right, okay this is who we have to work with, let's work'."

Watson, who was chief operating officer at Luton until the summer, says Swansea remain committed to the sort of possession-based philosophy which has become their trademark since Roberto Martinez was named manager 16 years ago.

"If you look at this season, we have had more possession in more games than not, more passes in more games than not, more shots in more games than not," he said.

"There's a lot more to do, but with the principle that we will be a possession-based team who will pass more than the opposition, create more chances, within that Swansea way.

"That's from top to bottom - everybody thinks that, including Michael."