It only took 10 games for Hoffenheim to react and become the first Bundesliga club this season to dismiss their head coach. Jonathan Harding doesn’t understand the decision.
What is it about the panic button in football? Ten games into the new Bundesliga season and Hoffenheim have pressed theirs, unceremoniously sacking Markus Gisdol and replacing him with veteran Dutchman Huub Stevens. Granted European-tipped Hoffenheim only have one win to their name this season, but the arrival of Stevens, a man who is famous for steadying sinking ships, so early on in the campaign returns Hoffenheim to a future of short-term appointments.
Gisdol was in charge of more games (96) than the previous five head coaches added together (84). He brought stability to a club that struggled to accept a head coach since Ralf Rangnick, the man who took Hoffenheim into the Bundesliga. Upon arrival, Gisdol kept Hoffenheim in the league thanks to a memorable last-day win against Borussia Dortmund, before comfortably dispatching of Kaiserslautern in the playoff. In his two full seasons, he led them to ninth and eighth place finishes in the Bundesliga, as well as twice to the German Cup quarterfinals. He kept Roberto Firmino as long as he could, and even left the club before leading star Kevin Volland. He made shrewd signings to stop the club from stagnating, combining the arrival of good Bundesliga players such as Pirmin Schwegler, Oliver Baumann and Jonathan Schmid with the nurturing of young talents such as Niklas Süle and Jeremy Toljan. The loss of Firmino and addition of further new names this summer was always going to take time to work. Sadly that was time Gisdol never got.
Top-flight German clubs should spend more time focusing on their own development rather than being distracted by Bayern's dominance. Panic more becoming of the Premier League – just ask Jürgen Klopp – is creeping back into the Bundesliga.
Apparently, the 46-year-old Gisdol lacked communication skills. Well, for a man of few words the club made some remarkable progress under his stewardship. Even this season, they weren't far away from painting a different picture. If Eugen Polanski had scored his penalty against Bayern, or Timo Werner hadn't equalised in stoppage time, Hoffenheim would have the same number of points as Werder Bremen - who, by the way, haven't sacked their manager despite also having European aspirations.
Some might argue that long-term planning is a luxury that clubs without money don't have. Hannover, Stuttgart, even Hamburg are prime examples of Bundesliga clubs caught by the stranglehold of absolutely having to stay in the top flight to survive. Hoffenheim obviously want the same, but, like it or not, they have more than enough financial backing to make smarter decisions (whichever league they are in) than this one.