Schalke 04 pulled the ripcord before the series of setbacks, the need for explanations and consolations for the next games threatened to become a permanent loop. On Wednesday morning, almost twelve hours after the embarrassing failure at TSG Hoffenheim in the DFB Cup, head coach Frank Kramer was relieved of his duties with immediate effect.
“The way we played, especially in the away games in Leverkusen and Hoffenheim, was not worthy of FC Schalke 04,” explained Peter Knäbel. However, the sports director did not only blame Kramer for the sporting misdevelopment, which led to the promoted team taking 17th place in the Bundesliga and now being eliminated from the cup after a shockingly weak performance.
“Our analysis therefore also goes beyond the individual head coach. We will have to improve significantly in all areas in order to be able to achieve our major goal of remaining in the class,” said Knäbel. It was clear from the start that this would be difficult anyway – but the almost bloodless performances that had been increasing recently have led to the conviction that a new impetus is urgently needed.
Kramer was already counted after the 0: 4 in Leverkusen a week and a half ago. After the 0:3 in the home game against Hoffenheim last Friday, when at least the fighting attitude was right, it was decided to give the coach a probationary period. After the 1:5 (0:3) in Sinsheim, however, it was clear that things couldn’t go on like this. The massive resentment among the fans, the increasing insecurity of the team – the much-vaunted homogeneity, to which the club had struggled to return in the promotion season, was in danger.
Kramer was certainly also a victim of impatience. Many supporters were critical of the 50-year-old, who Schalke signed in the summer after they had received several cancellations. After we managed to join forces last season and get everyone together behind the common goal of returning to the top flight as quickly as possible, everyday life in the first division turned out to be much more difficult.
It started with assembling the team. Due to the economic legacy, significant transfers had to be avoided. Difference players, as scorer Simon Terodde was in relation to the second division, could not be committed. Under the pressure, Kramer made mistakes. All too often he chose over-cautious setups and attitudes, the already manageable level of play continued to fall. Dissatisfaction grew.
“From our point of view, the time has come when we have to make personnel changes,” said sporting director Rouven Schröder. The original plan of continuing to work with Kramer until the World Cup break and then making a reassessment no longer seemed feasible. “We have to score points in the last five league games before this extraordinarily long break so that we can then prepare as well as possible for what will be a groundbreaking second half of the season for us,” said Schröder.
It is still unclear what the successor plan will look like. On Wednesday, the assistant coaches led the training. It remains to be seen whether a new head coach will be found on Sunday, when Schalke have to play at Hertha SC. One candidate remains Thomas Reis. Schalke had already contacted the former coach of VfL Bochum before Kramer was signed.
However, it is also possible that there will initially be an interim solution from the staff of the previous assistant coaches. Mike Büskens, who assumed responsibility towards the end of last season, could be part of this solution. Just like Matthias Kreutzer, who is also very respected in the club.
However, the question of coaching should not be the only decisive factor for the future. Schröder and Knäbel will not be able to avoid significantly strengthening the team in winter. It won’t be easy because Schalke is still suffering from the consequences of the corona pandemic, relegation and the mismanagement of the past decades.