LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 17: Tomas Pekhart (2nd L) of Nuernberg celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Bundesliga match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FC Nuernberg at BayArena on December 17, 2011 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Nürnberg have sold their best centerback in the last two summers. Issue?
Team: 1. FC Nürnberg
Manager: Dieter Hecking
Key Additions: Timo Gebhart, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Marcos Antonio
Key Losses: Christian Eigler, Philipp Wollscheid, Daniel Didavi (loan returnee)
2011-2012 Finish: Bundesliga 10th
2012-2013 Prediction: Three years ago FC Nürnberg had to win a playoff with FC Augsburg to remain in the Bundesliga. They increased their point total the next year by 16 finishing in 6th place. This was mostly due to the great play of Julian Schieber, Ilkay Gundogan, and Mehmet Ekici. At the end of the season, Schieber and Ekici saw their loan deals expire and Gundogan was sold to Borussia Dortmund. Nürnberg made some effort to strengthen their squad bringing in Daniel Didavi on loan and signing Tomas Pekhart and Alexander Esswein. The signings paid off, and Nürnberg remained in the top ten.
Nürnberg said goodbye to Philipp Wollscheid this summer with his transfer to Bayer Leverkusen. Wollscheid was fantastic at centerback for them last season, and his departure won't be easy for the club to fill. They've brought in Marcos Antonio from Rapid București to add depth to the centerback position. Antonio has made over 60 appearances for the Romanian side in the last two seasons. If he can be consistent in the minutes he does receive, Nürnberg should be able to absorb the loss of Wollscheid a little easier. Timo Gebhart and Hiroshi Kiyotake have been brought in to fill voids left by Christian Eigler and Daniel Didavi. Didavi managed to bag 9 goals in the Bundesliga last season from the attacking midfield and was tied for the team lead in league goals.
Tomas Pekhart is the player to watch for Nürnberg this year. The young Czech Republic international scored 10 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions last season for the club. Pekhart is only 23 years old and is under contract with the Bundesliga side until 2015. His goal output this season will depend greatly on the service that he receives from the attacking trio behind him in Dieter Hecking 4-2-3-1. Pekhart goal will be to hit double digits in league goals this season becoming the first Nürnberg player since Albert Bunjaku in 2009-10 to do so.
It's not going to be the easiest season for Nürnberg. They've sold their best centerback for the second summer in a row, and the bigger-spending clubs haven't shied away from making additions to their squads. Nürnberg need to get the best out of their current players in order to sustain their position in the league. Finding a "best" starting eleven is a good place to start for the club. Last year, marauding right back Timothy Chandler made 18 starts at right back, but he also made 11 starts at right midfield. Worrisome for Nürnberg is that Chandler started more games at right midfield than any other player. Hopefully, Dieter Hecking can solve this issue before we're too deep into the season. It will be difficult for Nürnberg to repeat a top ten finish this season, but they should not have to fear dropping into a relegation battle.