Hoffenheim had set themselves the pre-season objective of qualifying for Europe. However, their performances have fallen well short of that lofty target, culminating in Babbel becoming the Bundesliga's second managerial casualty of the campaign.
Babbel, a former FC Bayern Munich, Hamburger SV and VfB Stuttgart defender, assumed the role of head coach in February after Holger Stanislawski was let go under similar circumstances. Since then, however, the Sinsheim side have conceded 59 goals, including a league-high 36 this season, collecting just 29 points from a possible 87 in the process - the worst top-flight record of any Hoffenheim head coach.
The introduction of Andreas Müller as sporting director looked to have eased the pressure on Babbel as Hoffenheim bounced back from losing their opening three matches. However, a downward spiral soon left 1899 in a spin as Sunday's catastrophic 4-1 loss to Werder Bremen, the fifth time they've conceded four or more goals this season, proved to be the final straw for the club's board.
“After careful consideration, and in accordance with the club's management, as well as its board members, I have decided to make a cut,” said Müller. “Our increasingly perilous sporting situation and the ongoing negative trend have left me with no choice." Taking Babbel's place, at least in the meantime, is reserve team coach Frank Kramer.
“Frank is going to take responsibility for the coming two games, but perhaps even for longer than that,” added Müller. “He is an excellent teacher of football and has our full faith." Müller would not elaborate on whether Kramer could be a candidate for the job on a permanent basis, asking only for "peace and quiet to be able to consider our next steps.”
Kramer will be assisted by Julian Nagelsmann, coach of the club’s under-16 side. “Of course I didn't want it to come to this where I have to stand in, but I am confident enough to take on this difficult challenge,” said Kramer. “In the few days we have until the game in Hamburg, the focus will be on giving the players back belief in their strengths, and I will do my utmost to achieve that.”