Having been linked with a move to Town for a figure in the region of €4.5 million, this scout report explores who Nils Petersen is, his career up until this point and whether or not he would be a good signing for the newly-promoted Premier League side.
Who is Nils Petersen?
Born in the small town of Wernigerode in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, Nils Petersen emerged as a bright young talent from an early age. From an early stage, the composure and prolific nature of Petersen were the telltale signs that Petersen was destined, not only to become a professional footballer but one that could reach the very top of the game.
Nils Petersen began his youth career in Wernigerode with FC Einheit before joining VfB Germania Halberstadt. After impressing at the youth amateur level, Petersen finished his footballing education at the Sport School Jena before signing his first professional contract at the age of eighteen with 2. Bundesliga side Carl Zeiss Jena. From the very beginning, it was clear that Petersen was destined for bigger and brighter things.
The catalyst of Petersen’s career was the move to Bundesliga side Energie Cottbus. Despite Energie Cottbus’ relegation following the defeat to Nurnberg in the Bundesliga relegation playoff, it would prove to be a blessing in disguise for Nils Petersen.
The relegation to the second flight of German football allowed Nils Petersen to cement his place in Energie Cottbus’ starting line-up and a run of games was precisely what he needed. Despite Energie Cottbus struggling to make an impression in the 2. Bundesliga, Nils Petersen finished as the top goalscorer with twenty-five goals and six assists in thirty-three matches.
The unstoppable form of Nils Petersen earned himself a move back to the Bundesliga, this time to German giants Bayern Munich. There was much excitement about the move especially after Nils Petersen’ fine pre-season form which saw him score a hat-trick on his debut.
In the league, as a second half substitute, it only took Petersen seventeen minutes for him to open his goalscoring account for Bayern Munich. Ironically, it would come against the side that he would later become a fan favorite of, Freiburg. Despite six goals in eighteen games most of which came as a substitute, Nils Petersen was unable to displace Mario Gomez and persuade Jupp Heycknes to allow him to lead the line.
Instead of giving Petersen a prolonged run in the side, Bayern Munich opted to loan Nils Petersen to Bundesliga rivals Werder Bremen. With less competition for a starting place and Robin Dutt more inclined to give Petersen opportunities, the then 24-year-old striker impressed the for the Grün-Weißen. After a number of notable contributions which included eleven goals and six assists, Petersen made the move from Bayern Munich to Werder Bremen a permanent one.
After making the permanent switch, many expected Nils Petersen would continue his fine goal-scoring form and replicate the success he had whilst on loan. It wasn’t to be, the arrival of Franco Di Santo and Davie Selke saw Nils Petersen fall down the pecking order and drop to the bench. Although Petersen continued to be an effective impact substitute, there was a growing frustration from a lack of playing time which led to Petersen leaving on loan once again, this time to Freiburg.
Although Petersen joined Freiburg whilst they were in the midst of a relegation dogfight, Petersen scored nine times in twelve outings to provide Freiburg with some much needed firepower. However, despite a dogged effort, Freiburg were relegated and Nils Petersen was once again confined to the second division of Germany.
Considering the last time Nils Petersen was in the second division he finished as the top goalscorer, there was a weight of expectation on his shoulders that he would deliver once again. Nils Petersen did not disappoint as his twenty-one goals and six assists were enough to fire Freiburg back to the Bundesliga after just a one season absence.
This season, Nils Petersen has played an integral role in Freiburg’s side. However, mainly as a substitute. Of the thirty-three Bundesliga appearances Petersen made this season, only seven of these appearances saw Nils Petersen begin in the starting line-up.
Despite the limited opportunities, Nils Petersen still managed to hit double figures and even set a Bundesliga record with his nine goals off the substitute bench. Whilst Nils Petersen is almost certainly a fan favourite at Freiburg, there have been some suggestions that Nils Petersen is not overly happy about his substitute role and in the summer, he may be available to a club that can offer him guaranteed first team football.
As well as a long industrious domestic playing career, Nils Petersen has also been a success internationally. Very few expected Nils Petersen of Wernigerode would become a future German international. However, after representing Germany at all age levels aside from the senior level, Nils Petersen was called up to the German Olympic squad by Horst Hrubesch for the 2016 Olympic games. As one of three over 23 players alongside Sven and Lars Bender, Nils Petersen was given the burden of responsibility as one of the most experienced players in the squad.
Although Nils Petersen was predominantly used as a substitute by Horst Hrubesch, Nils Petersen still managed a goal to game ratio with six goals in six games (admittedly five came in a single game!). Despite not featuring for Germany’s senior team yet, other than through the Olympics, Nils Petersen has shown that he is comfortable scoring both at domestic and international level.
The Expert’s View
After asking former head of Vavel Bundesliga Jonathan Walsh about Nils Petersen’ character and playing style, he explained what Huddersfield Town would be getting if they could prise Nils Petersen away from Freiburg:
Nils Petersen is a great guy and one who works hard for what he gets.
Petersen was never the standout man at Bayern or Bremen but came into his own with a loan to Freiburg.
While he was prolific in patches before that, his ability to find the back of the net in the Black Forest can not be understated.
Petersen, despite not being the quickest, can use his strength to battle off defenders when going through on goal and usually produces when he gets the chance.
Petersen is a typical number 9, but he does it superbly well. His hold up play is useful for bringing others into play, too.
He perhaps lacks in being able to move into the channels to offer up more of an out ball, but that’s never really been his style. If Wagner wants a finisher, Petersen would be a great addition.
The pace and physicality of the league is always a concern when players make the move, no matter what anyone says, but I think Petersen’s anticipation and finishing should stand him in good stead if he does make the move.
Should Town sign him?
At the age of twenty-eight, Nils Petersen doesn’t particularly fit the criteria of Town’s recruitment. However, he could prove to be a vital signing for Town to make.
Whilst there is a clear youthful exuberance about this Huddersfield Town side, David Wagner knows that he will need to add some much needed experience to find the perfect balance for another season against the odds.
Although some will argue that it is a risk to sign Nils Petersen considering the fact that he has never played in England or the Premier League (despite being linked with a move there many times), Petersen is a vastly experienced striker with an abundance of top flight experience.
Significantly, Nils Petersen has shown at Freiburg that he has know-how and experience to not only perform but thrive for a side that is looking to stave off relegation from the top flight which is the likely predicament that Town will face next season.
What Nils Petersen may not be able to provide with regards to athleticism, he makes up for with his physical attributes. As a player that thrives in a lone striker formation, Petersen has the strength and vision to bring others into play. He also has the patience and experience to lead the line in what can be sometimes a frustratingly isolated role. All these attributes would be welcome additions to Town’s pool of strikers as Nils Petersen would slot into David Wagner’s 4-2-3-1 system perfectly.
As well as what Nils Petersen would have to offer, he may be exactly what Town needs. A collective profligacy was Town’s undoing last season which could’ve seen them push Newcastle and Brighton to their very limits and potentially steal an automatic promotion place.
With a lack of efficiency in front of goal proving to be the only downfall for Town over the past season, a penalty box striker like Nils Petersen could be the ideal signing. Despite having only limited opportunities off the bench at most of the clubs he’s been at, he has shown that when he is given a chance in front of goal, he often takes it.
Either starting or as an effective impact substitute, Nils Petersen would be an astute signing for Town to make, especially for a fee of around €4.5 million which is minuscule amount compared to most Premier League deals that will go through this summer.
Whether or not, David Wagner can prise the Freiburg striker away from the Black Forest has yet to be seen. However, if Nils Petersen does join Town, they will have a potential game changer who will not be overawed by the challenge that the Premier League poses. Instead, they will simply have a genuine goalscorer.