The Hoffenheim Dilemma

SINSHEIM, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 08: Head coach Holger Stanislawski of Hoffenheim gestures during the DFB Cup Quarter Final match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and SpVgg Greuther Fuerth at Rhein-Neckar-Arena on February 8, 2012 in Sinsheim, Germany. (Photo by Thorsten Wagner/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim may have fired their manager, but there are still plenty of questions as to just what's going on behind the scenes.

Just like three years ago Hoffenheim have found themselves at the center of attention in Germany. This time though, it's not for the right reasons. The club has lived all of its short Bundesliga life in midtable mediocrity but has never really been worried about its safety in the league - until now. A counter-productive January window has definitely signaled a rough patch in the club's top-flight adventure.

January saw the club lose three of their most influential players. Chinedu Obasi, Gyfli Sigurdsson and Vedad Ibisevic all left the club. Obasi and Ibisevic were vital parts in the team's promotion and their first season in the league, one in which the club found themselves at the top of the table halfway through the season. Sigurdsson, meanwhile, was last season's top scorer despite not starting many games during the course of the campaign. Since leaving the club both Obasi and Sigurdsson have found form at Schalke and Swansea respectively while Ibisevic has seemed a far more motivated player than he was at Hoffenheim. The departure of the three players raises some questions as to what exactly manager Ernst Tanner is doing with the team.

Ever since owner Dietmar Hopp announced his intentions to start turning a profit it has seemed clear that neither he nor Tanner have any idea of how to go about creating a self sustaining club. Instead of using the current squad to finish higher up the table and bringing in money through better sponsorship deals and an increasing fanbase, the club began selling their best players for ridiculously low prices. Ibisevic left for a mere €5.5m, with Schalke offering about the same price for Obasi should they want to retain the winger's services after the end of his loan spell. The negative effect of selling for such low prices is that the club can't bring in suitable replacements in an attempt to save money.

Holger Stanislawski was brought in at the start of the 2011/12 season and as a coach who had proven he could work under tough financial restrictions, it seemed like an ideal fit. The appointment immediately looked like a good move after the club stormed to a top table position and pushed teams like Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich hard. However, the atmosphere within the team went downhill very fast and it remains unclear as to what exactly had gone on behind the scenes.

Despite having plenty of individual quality, the team struggled to find any sort of motivation and was constantly throwing away leads to teams lower down the table. The squad's main problem was their inability to score and by the time the winter break rolled around the club could only boast three scorers over the months leading up to it.

Hoffenheim's Rückrunde didn't get off to a good start either, with the team just winning two points from three games and even though one of them was an away clash with Dortmund, the pressure really piled on Stanislawski. The club's DFB Pokal loss to second division Greuther Fürth seemed to be the final straw and within 24 hours the club had sacked Stanislawski and hired former Hetha Berlin coach, Markus Babbel, on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

Apart from being a brilliant player, Babbel's only real claim to fame as a coach was his first season at Hertha. Although he was managing a club who had just been relegated from the Bundesliga. As a result he was coaching the strongest team in the league so it is difficult to gauge what kind of coach he really is.

Babbel was relieved of his duties at Hertha after he refused a contract extension with the club. His main issue was the lack of funds at debt-ridden Hertha. So coming in to Hoffenheim is not the ideal job for him but he does have a more talented squad to work with. As a club Hoffenheim aren't in any immediate danger of relegation but with the bottom of the table being as tight as it is, Babbel will need to hit the ground running. If he doesn't, one of the Bundesliga's most interesting stories over the past few seasons might have a rather unhappy ending.

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