Nils Petersen is proving his worth in the Bundesliga at the perfect time

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By Ross Dunbar

After all, the league’s most prolific goalscorer for 2012 and this season, overall, is a player of the old-fashioned ‘Number 9’ mould, whilst the Bundesliga continues to accommodate what is a dying breed of forward across Europe.

Hailing from the East German town of Wernigerode, Petersen has moved up the ranks, from his provincial club FC Einheit Wernigerode, to Carl-Zeiss Jena and then on to Energie Cottbus in the 2.Bundesliga. His move to Cottbus was worth around €300k and after a season in the reserves, he burst on to the scene at the age of 21 with 10 goals in 22 games in 2009/10. The following campaign, Petersen came into his own with 25 goals in 33 games for the second division side.

Through hard-work and this impressive nous of scoring goals, Petersen earned a €2.7m move to FC Bayern in the summer of 2011. With Mario Gomez and Klose as competition, the striker was frozen out by the returning head coach Jupp Heynckes making only nine appearances – but scoring twice. The humble 24-year-old refused to let his lack of game-time affect his confidence and was appreciative of his time with the German giants.

“These are different worlds.” he told Merkur-Online. The striker continues: “It is at Bayern that I can stand out in training - but it’s also very important not to hide. The experience is something I’m proud of - and when outsiders now claim that it was a mistake to have gone to Bavaria, I can counter that: I have done everything right.”

Petersen insisted that he has improved through the high-standard of training in Munich under Heynckes and learning from the likes of Gomez and Klose. The striker was in awe of the current S.S Lazio frontman who is just one goal away from breaking Gerd Muller’s international record. “I want to follow in Klose’s footsteps.” He said during his time in Munich.

“I’ll give it my best shot and I’m not even contemplating failure. I’m just looking forward to training every day with my new teammates. Klose is one of the best strikers out there, the number one for Germany. I may have been the best forward in the 2. Bundesliga, but I’m not on Klose’s level yet. I want to follow in Klose’s footsteps, when my time comes.”

Very similar in their quick movement in the penalty area and effective aerial prowess, Klose’s exit from the international – and German domestic scene – has left prevalent gap in the German national side. Gomez’s lack of football with FC Bayern might be a hindrance to the forward come the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and considering Jogi Low’s refusal to call-up Stefan Kiessling of Bayer Leverkusen – the all-round top scorer in the Bundesliga for 2012 – then Petersen can be quietly confident of increasing his own reputation in the league.

Werder Bremen have had a typically Thomas Schaaf campaign in the Bundesliga with rife inconsistency, both in selections, and results, but the former Cottbus centre-forward has a credible record at the highest platform in German football with 11 league goals in 22 games, plus another five assists.

The next step looks inevitable; score against the top sides in the division. Petersen did start against FC Bayern at the Weser-Stadion in a match the visitors won by two goals, but a clash that was in the balance for nearly three-quarters of the fixture. He could not find the net, and likewise against Dortmund, he drew a blank. Schaaf has adopted a “false nine” strategy in both matches with BVB, deploying Chelsea loanee Kevin de Bruyne in that role to press higher up the field and use his movement to create space for the attacking-midfielders. In the crushing 5-0 win for the reigning champions, Petersen was isolated on the right-hand side of midfield, a position which is particularly unusual for the player to find himself in.

In Werder’s last three matches, Petersen has led the line well and forming an exciting central partnership with dynamic ‘Number10’ Mehmet Ekici and on-loan Chelsea midfielder Kevin de Bruyne. Indeed, it was the three who combined for Petersen’s first strike on Saturday in their 3-2 defeat to SC Freiburg. Ekici prompted a quick Bremen counter-attack, as De Bruyne made an 80-yard run up the pitch in possession, then laying in Petersen who squeezed his finish inside the far post.

Petersen has struck four times in his last three games and created a goal in the 4-1 win over VfB Stuttgart last Sunday. The German striker has an excellent leap from a straight-standing position and has scored five of his 11 goals with his head. Werder Bremen are just six points off a European position in the league with Petersen’s reliability in-front of goal proving a vital asset.

Given his tame impact at FC Bayern, Petersen will always find it tough to shrug off the tag of being “not good enough” in the Bundesliga. The striker’s focus will be on consolidating his form in the league, helping Werder Bremen to a European place – but Petersen should not lose sight of the glaring lack of options in the central-striker position.

This article is by Ross Dunbar, an AFR Senior Writer and editor for Bundesliga Football. You can follow him on twitter @rossdunbar93. Comments below please.

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