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Soccer fans love to argue about the tactics a manager puts into play, and this fascinating study traces the world history of tactics, from modern pioneers right back to the beginning, where chaos reigned. Along the way, author Jonathan Wilson, an erudite and detailed writer who never loses a sense of the grand narrative sweep, takes a look at the lives of the great playersSoccer fans love to argue about the tactics a manager puts into play, and this fascinating study traces the world history of tactics, from modern pioneers right back to the beginning, where chaos reigned. Along the way, author Jonathan Wilson, an erudite and detailed writer who never loses a sense of the grand narrative sweep, takes a look at the lives of the great players and thinkers who shaped the game, and discovers why the English in particular have proved themselves so “unwilling to grapple with the abstract.” This is a modern classic of soccer writing that followers of the game will dip into again and again....

Title : Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics
Author :
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ISBN : 9780752889955
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 374 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics Reviews

  • James
    2019-04-20 19:15

    One of the best, if not *the* best, soccer books I have ever read. It approaches the history of soccer through a series of tactical innovations in the game. If, like me, you grew up thinking the English 4-4-2 is soccer the way God intended it and had been played since time immemorial, this will be a real eye-opener. The title refers to the fact that, for much of the history of soccer, their has been a trend from purely attacking football (2-3-5) to more defensive, possession-oriented play (e.g. 1-4-4-1 or 4-5-1). There's much more to it than that, of course.Of particular contemporary note is the emergence of "pressing" (or "pressurizing, here in the States) as an important tactic. Barcelona's recent successes in both the Champions' League and La Liga can be attributed, in large part, to this tactic, one that doesn't really emerge, according to Wilson, until AC Milan's European Cup winning sides of the late 80s/early 90s. Also fascinating is his treatment of English soccer. While he doesn't privilege it the way I might, he emphasises how influential the English game has been while, at the same time, being among the most retrograde styles. As a Fulham supporter, I was also amazed to see Roy Hodgson mentioned as a prime mover in the development of Scandinavian football. (Of course, after what he's done for my team, I'm in favour of having him canonised.)I can't recommend this book highly enough for any reflective fan of soccer/football. You'll be saddened when you get to the coverage of Morinho's 4-5-1 at Chelsea, because you'll know you are up to today.

  • Ahmed
    2019-04-18 13:12

    تطور تكتيكات كرة القدم منذ أول مباراة دولية بين إنجلترا وإسكتلندا عام 1872حتى نهائي أمم أفريقيا بين مصر والكاميرون عام 2008 :Dمن 2 - 3 -5 إلى 4 - 5 -1 مستعرضا عبر التاريخ أشهر الفرق التى أحدث الفارق بتكتيكاتها المميزةإبطاليا فيتوريو بوزو في الثلاثيناتالمجر الذهبية في عهد بوشكاش وهيديكوتي في الخمسيناتأوستوديانتس دي لابلاتا مع أوزفالدو زوبيلديا في الستيناتالكاتيناتشو الإيطالى مع هيلينيو هريرا في الستنيات أيضاكرة هولندا الشاملة في عهد رينوس ميتشيل في السبعيناتأرجنتين مينوتي و بيلاردو في السبعينات والتمانيناتالفرق الذهية الثلاثة لفاليري لوبانوفسكي ( دينامو كييف ) في السبيعينات والثمانينات والتسعيناتقرأته بشغف كبير جدا كعاشق حقيقي لكرة القدم وتاريخهابقى أن أذكر أن هذا هو أغلى كتاب أشتريه في حياتي 135 جنيه ;(

  • Santo
    2019-03-27 15:18

    Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand, evaluating on his team’s sound defeat at the hands of FC Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League Final, exclaimed that Barça had played without a forward, thus making life difficult for the Manchester defense.Indeed, on that glorious evening, Barça played without a recognizable point-man, and yet managed to score 3 goals. Not only that, we had two wing defenders (Alves and Abidal) who spent more time in midfield than in defense; a center back who frequently made vertical, penetrating runs (Pique), and a midfielder who often sat as the last player on the defensive line (Busquets). Of course, most importantly, we managed to make the Red Devils look like a second-tier team, playing a football void of positional discipline.The Barça attacking force comprised of David Villa, Pedro, Iniesta, Xavi, and the most-awesome Messi. Some would argue that Villa is a forward; but he’s certainly not what comes in mind when we think about the Ibrahimovichs, Shearers, or Drogbas of this world. Messi scores goals by the bunch; but he often is demanded to play the role of creator, usually dissecting the opposing team with blisteringly brave diagonal runs. Pedro is certainly not Bierhoff, Van Basten, or Rush; he’s much shorter, and plays more like a winger. And then, there’s Xavi and Iniesta; definitely not forwards.It was then – right after reading Ferdinand’s lament – that it struck me. A revelation. Yes, Barça – with its small, fast, and technical midfield-strikers – was not only entertaining to watch, but very potent in real life. But more so, Barça didn’t play with a “true” forward that night because we were playing a new breed of football.While many like to call Barça’s game as something out of this planet, I’ve come to realize that it is not so. The truth is that the club of my heart is mortal. But mortality has never been the hurdle to progress. Barça is simply at the forefront of this continuum called “football tactics”. Just like Italy’s catenaccio and Ajax’s “total football” in their respective eras, Barça’s play is the new revolution in football tactics. Without wanting to be forcibly humble, Barça simply is the next generation in football.In his book, “Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics”, Jonathan Wilson confirmed my views. Wilson explained the following about the evolution of football tactics: “As system has replaced individuality, the winger has gone and been reincarnated in a different more complex form; so too, has the playmaker; and so, now, might the striker be refined out of existence. The future, it seems, is universality.” In a world as imagined by Wilson, players will no longer be identified simply as strikers, midfielders, or defensemen; these identifications will be interchangeable, thus making play more fluid. What’s so great about this quote is that Wilson’s book was printed in 2008, a year before Pep Guardiola took over as manager of the Catalan team. What a prophecy!I’ve always regarded football as something more than just a game. And even if it was truly a game, then it was never just about scoring goals. Football represents the evolution of cultures and the mixing of ideas among great nations. Football is also about the struggle between individuality and the system, between traditions and avant-gardism. Practically, football is about life. And when the final whistle is over, when one talks about the game that has just ended, it’s not only about the score on the newspaper headlines. It’s about the dreams… fulfilled or ended. It’s about passion… won or lost. It’s bigger than the player. Bigger than the club. It’s as big as life itself.To understand more beyond the score line, it is important to understand the evolution of tactics in the history of this beautiful game. To understand international relations, one would have to read about the theoretical debates between realism and liberalism. To measure the size of energy, one would need to make calculations based on the laws of physics. Well, the same could be said about football.If you’re happy simply with the sight of an acrobatic goal, then enjoy them. If you prefer to focus on a particular bad call by the referee, than so be it. But for me, football is more than just Maradona-like solo runs or Beckham-like bended free kicks. Football is not only about the player with the ball, but also those who are not, making runs into open space. Football is designing a movement encompassing the whole team, in synch, and with a common purpose. Football is about the bigger picture. And the bigger picture always has some deeper meaning to it. Deeper than the replay of a missed Baggio penalty.This is when I turn to writings like Wilson’s. This is not the first time, though. There’ve been a number of good books on football that I’ve read. David Winner's Brilliant Orange was a good companion of mine during my short stay in Holland, as I try to understand Dutch culture through its football tactics. Steve Bloomfield's Africa United attempted to explain the lives of people in many different African countries through football. And of course, Phil Ball’s Morbo is a bible to understanding La Liga in Spain, the history, rivalries, and ethnical anecdotes related to it.“Inverting the Pyramid” is a detailed, comprehensive study of the evolution of football tactics. From the early times of organized matches in England to the Dynamo Kiew scientific approach and the end of the enganche era of players like Riquelme. I learned about the early 2-3-5 formation, which led to the way shirt numberings became (i.e. why a right defender wears #2, and a left winger #11). I learned about the difference between a trequartista (Seedorf) and a regista (Pirlo) in AC Milan’s winning ways. And how a 3-4-2-1 formation (with one less defender) may end up being more defensive than a traditional back four (i.e. 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formations). I also learned about the thoughts of great coaches from Viktor Maslov, to Helenio Herrerra, to Arrigo Sacchi, and Johan Cruyff.What’s more, I enjoyed immensely Wilson’s analysis of how football tactics evolved in accordance to the different cultures and lifestyles of the football players. The Italian catenaccio evolved during a period of lacking confidence, an Italian society that had lived through invasions after another. As the Italian society dug deep, defended its nation, and waited for the best opportunity to pounce, these sentiments and feelings were transpired into its football tactics.At the same time, it is no wonder that the free-flowing, bohemian, and democratic play of Ajax’s total football came about at a time when Amsterdam became the hippie capital of the world. Neither is it surprising that the scientific approach of Dynamo Kiev’s legendary coach, Valeriy Lobonovskiy, grew amidst the growth of Kiev as one of the centers of technology and science for the Soviet empire. Nor the reason that many African countries have strong midfielders capable of making vertical runs (think Yaya Toure and Michael Essien) is because football pitches in Africa are mostly long, narrow, clogged by players, and hugged on its sides by a sewer or garbage dump.I also enjoyed the recurring themes framing football tactics over the years. The debates between the pragmatists – who’d do anything for a win – and the idealists – who only has a beautiful game in his mind, win or lose. As well, the debate between those who favor a system of tactics and those who highlight the individual brilliance of players. How to strike a balance between these extremes to come up with not only the best team, but most importantly, the best-looking team.To some, this would be observed simply as a matter of the football pitch. But to me, this looks so much like our society. The contests between realists and idealists in international relations. The tensions between individual freedoms and communal responsibility, between democracy and authoritarian efficacy.In ending his book, Wilson quoted Arrigo Sacchi who said: “As long as humanity exists, something new [football tactics] will come along. Otherwise football dies.” In life, people must progress. We invent new things, come up with new ideas. All for the purpose of survival. Those who can, will proceed. And those who can’t cope with the changes will be left behind, lamenting that the other team “didn’t play with a forward”. The same is for football.More than a game, football should be seen as a form of art, and football players as artists. The managers, the people with the music sheet, are the music conductor, leading the entire ensemble on a musical journey. Of course, the music written is often colored immensely by the culture, experience, and lives of these musicians, particularly the conductor. Once a while, a violinist or pianist would be asked to rise for a solo, but in the end, those solo occasions are simply parts of the orchestra’s repertoire, a splat of red highlighting the bigger picture. Messi’s runs are magical, but they often don’t stand alone, but as a precursor to a nice pass to Pedro, which often ends with a goal, on the bottom corner of Casillas’ net.And so, if football is art, and art imitates life. Then, would it mean that football imitates life? I certainly think so.

  • Abhinav
    2019-03-24 14:31

    Summary: For soccer fans, following, discussing, and arguing about the tactics a manager puts into play are part of what makes the sport so appealing. This fascinating study traces the history of soccer tactics back from such modern pioneers as Rinus Michels, Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Catenaccio, and Herbert Chapman. Along the way, author Jonathan Wilson, an erudite and detailed writer who never loses a sense of the grand narrative sweep, takes a look at the lives of the great players and thinkers who shaped the game, and discovers why the English in particular have proved themselves so "unwilling to grapple with the abstract." This will be a modern classic of soccer writing that followers of the game will dip into again and again.Review: This is a book for those looking for something far more intellectual than reading one of those footballers’ ghost-written autobiographies that are churned with alarming regularity every year. Jonathan Wilson’s masterpiece of football literature gives us a detailed account of the evolution of tactics and provides valuable insight on how and why some teams have continued to play a certain style of football over decades. A MUST READ for all football fans.

  • Miguel
    2019-03-22 18:18

    This book is admirable for its erudition and its focus on the evolution of tactics from the playing fields of nineteenth century public schools to the present. One really must admire a British specialist who digs into the entire global picture of football and comes up with a relatively comprehensible narrative out of what must have been reams of club histories and match reports that probably contain very little of the information the author seeks. It is readable, informative and occasionally funny. Here comes the "but". Quality really declines toward the end, as if the author was rushing to meet a publishing deadline or simply outsourced the job to a football fan with a bizarre form of Tourrette's that forces him to spout senseless combinations of numbers such as "3-3-3-1, 4-5-1, 3-4-1-2". The next-to-last chapter is completely unreadable. Whereas other chapters developed the story of a single innovator or the situation in a single country, this one just rushed through a myriad of modern formations and discusses sweeping issues such as the disappearance of the playmaker. Another late chapter devotes incomprehensible amounts of space to an obscure polemic between a football statistician and a future England coach. The central narrative is lost completely, which is tied to another central weakness: the lack of occasional paragraphs to sum up the evolution of tactics as the long procession of teams, coaches and players parade through the foreground of the book and just as quickly disappear from view. The title "Inverting the Pyramid" is a brilliant example of this: it sums up an immense amount of information into a neat little compact literary phrase, but that kind of brilliance is somewhat absent from the rest of the book. In short, I enjoyed the book, I learned a lot from it and I will probably return to it frequently after matches, but it really could have used a little more tidying up from an editor (hopefully in a future edition).

  • Mahlon
    2019-03-22 19:35

    A monumental achievement when you consider the far-flung number of sources that Wilson had to weave into a seamless narrative. I was hoping to learn more about tactics to help me improve in Football Manager, the fact that I didn't get that is probably my fault. I did learn a lot about the history behind the tactics, which is just as important. This book is a smooth blend of both, Inverting the Pyramid traces the evolution of tactics from the late 19th century to the tika-taka of Barca. Profiling the coaches and teams who used them most successfully.This book is an essential building block to any fan's soccer knowledge.

  • Ronnie
    2019-04-16 14:39

    I won't pretend that this is an easy book to read; even a football fan like myself found it very dry and occasionally difficult to continue reading. That said, there is a great deal of fascinating tactical analysis and is clearly written by someone who not only loves the game, but has a clear, and in-depth knowledge of the subject.As a Scotland fan, Craig Levein's recent foray into an - ultimately disparaged - 4-6-0 formation left me rather deflated but it's clear that the final chapter of this book was his inspiration. For example - Of the 4-6-0 formation, in general, Andy Roxburgh is quoted as saying, "You'd have four defenders at the back although even they'd be allowed to run forward. The six players in midfield, all of whom could rotate, attack and defend. But you'd need to have six Decos in midfield - he doesn't just attack, he runs, tackles, covers all over the pitch. You find him playing at right-back sometimes."As Levein found to his cost, Scotland don't have *any* Decos, let alone six of them.

  • Russell George
    2019-04-21 11:15

    Most people understand the false number nine, the winger who needs to tuck in when they don’t have possession, or midfielders who sit in front of the back four (or three). And though meeting someone who actively wants to talk tactics can be a nightmare, in about 100 years’ time the English football team will find someone who can pass these insights onto players who understand that the team is ultimately stronger than the individual. What they probably shouldn’t do, though, is give them a copy of this book. Whilst the overall concept is great – the tactical evolution whereby we went from having more attackers than defenders to vice versa – it’s difficult to illustrate tactics with prose and the occasional diagrams rather than video, particularly when certain patterns of play existed before the author, or in fact television, was born. So, the first few chapters attempt to describe formations from secondary sources. That’s perfectly legitimate, but it’s difficult to actually imagine how games panned out with five forwards and two full backs, and the huge amount of detail Wilson provides seems to swamp an answer to the simpler question that, if attackers outnumbered defenders so easily, and players didn’t switch position, why didn’t every game end 15-15? After a while, the sheer volume of information means it’s also difficult to keep track of how one formation is radically different from another. Perhaps I’m a bit thick but occasionally, a bit like Joe Hart in a major tournament, I got a little lost. Some of the important issues also seem to be slightly brushed over, for example the fact that pressing your opponent, which seems to have been fundamental to the success of many important teams, seems to have evolved because players became fitter as diets changed and footballers became more professional (or took performance enhancing drugs). But pressing is not strictly a tactical innovation, so perhaps it just didn't fit with the narrative of the book.Where I felt the book was strongest was in its characterisation of certain managerial philosophies as expressive of wider socio-cultural moments. The Ajax side of the early 70’s, for example, reflecting the radical spirit of the age; or the Soviet club sides who, in a similar vein, illustrated the egalitarian ethos of that society. There is also some wonderful historical detail, particularly around the early 20th century, and English pioneers like Vic Buckingham whose legacy is continued by Pep Guardiola to this day. Overall I did enjoy this, but I’m not really sure whether I feel I know much more about tactics than I did before I started it. Still, an interesting read.

  • Tfitoby
    2019-04-19 17:15

    A fascinating look at the evolution of a sport via its visionary tacticians written by a talented sports journalist in a clear and informative manner. I can't understand why the conversation surrounding football and the education of everyone who wants to play it from a young age isn't dominated by an understanding of so vital a part of the gameplay. My appreciation of my actions on field and my love of watching the sport have been greatly enhanced by reading this, what more could you want?

  • Clay Kallam
    2019-03-27 19:28

    As an American sports fan of a certain age, I understand football tactics. But as a fan of Euroleague and World Cup soccer, I understand nothing of "football" tactics -- that is, until I read "Inverting the Pyramid".Jonathan Wilson's book is a tangled but fascinating discussion of the history of what Americans call soccer and the slow developing tactical changes that have altered the way the game is played. As one who loves both history and strategy -- and who needed to upgrade my soccer knowledge for writing purposes -- I loved "The Inverted Pyramid" and I recommend it highly to anyone who wants to understand the game better, and to enjoy it more.That said, Wilson's narrative veers between chronological and tactical, and sometimes loses the thread of the historical timeline to chase down a change in formation. For one not totally versed in the lore of football, it can get a bit confusing, as do the references to British (and other) football heroes that are at best only a rumor to American readers.And speaking of America, in the entire book there is not one mention of an American contribution to the game -- and justifiably so. The MSL, the U.S. pro soccer league, is second-rate, and tactically, coaches here have always been behind the curve, at least until lately. It is, however, refreshing to read a book that makes no concessions to this country's inflated sporting ego, and puts the focus where it rightly belongs: On the soccer powers of the rest of the world, and how they got to where they are.All in all, "Inverting the Pyramid" is an almost perfect book for the audience at which it's aimed (which doesn't happen as often as one might think), and those who are interested in the real football, history and tactics are in for a fascinating read.

  • Mikko Karvonen
    2019-03-21 11:29

    Inverting the Pyramid offers a thorough and insightful look into the history of football tactics, specifically from the viewpoint of the development and using of different formations. Jonathan Wilson tackles the subject with authority, wide scope (although admittedly being Europe and South America centric), and clear and fluent writing, effectively creating a book that's enjoyable read for any football enthusiast.There is one aspect, though, that I found lacking and forced me to drop one star from the rating.The historical aspect of the book is extremely solid, including numerous interesting anecdotes and reviews of the lives and work of the most influental people in football. However, when it came to explaining how and why the different tactics worked, Wilson was wanting. In most cases his writing gave the impression of someone who knows his subject so well that he has trouble spelling it out to others in a clear and straight-forward manner, leaving me with a vaguely unsatisfied feeling. The book could have clearly used more diagrams showing the dynamics of the formations, as when such were provided, the explanations were powerful and easy to grasp.As this was essentially a book about the history of the football tactics, this is not a serious flaw. I just would have liked to read more on the subject, as Wilson obviously had more to say.

  • Amr Fahmy
    2019-04-16 19:10

    Very interesting but still lacked many examples that needed to be highlighted.. one of them, which is fundamental to me, is the dilemma of a classic winger or an inside forward. I still liked seeing my country Egypt highlighted in the success of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations as a model of going back to a three-man-back line.. however the name of Hassan Shehata, the coach then, was not even mentioned. The pivotal role of Aboutrika wasn't highlighted either. Still the same for teams that could spring surprises at some World Cups like Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. He highlighted France tactics in their way to win Euro 2000 and ignored what happened when the same team with nearly every detail got a first round exit in the World Cup two years later. There are many questions whether if tactics are the main factor of success and whether success can be achieved with the other factors in absence of tactics. Helenio Herrera's sad end with Inter Milano was something similar to that but still this point needed further detailing.Overall the book is just great, but we, readers, always seek perfection just in the way coaches did.

  • Dan
    2019-04-09 19:28

    Firstly, you must love football. Secondly, you must love the finer points to football. Lastly, you must love history. This book details the progression of tactics in football from its infancy to its lucrative modern iteration. What this book really describes is how the game itself has changed amongst all the peripheral evolutions (such as money, athletes, league and cup structures). The game is still played with a ball and two goals, 22 players on the field, but beyond that and its most basic rules, the tactics generally have the greatest significance. Sometimes the gaffer has a specific player that requires specific tactics (the skilled athlete determining the strategy), and sometimes the tactics determine the lineup, whichever method is preferable this book provides countless excellent examples of each of those methods (and more) clashing in anywhere from the meaningless to the highest stakes matches. I loved this book, but that's coming from a football aficionado.

  • Mohamed El-Dhshan
    2019-04-17 17:24

    I really enjoyed reading this book, as a football fan i know that football isn't about tactics only and there's other aspects of the game but still the tactics more important in the long-term.i think this is the best book about the evolution of football tactics, if you're interested to know how we have our modern football model now, I recommend this book to you.

  • Kundan
    2019-03-21 16:24

    A must read for a football viewer to develop a vision for the finer points of the game. Whatever league you would be watching, getting to know how football developed in that nation and how fledglin clubs developed ushered an era of galacticos, is something that sets the book apart. The takeaway for me in this book is the belief that it's the team's manager/coach who is the scriptwriter and director and the players are the playmakers who interpret his script on the field.

  • Jess
    2019-04-04 17:27

    FINISHED AT LAST.I will not lie, a lot of this was over my head and it wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. But I finished.

  • Spiros
    2019-03-29 18:10

    The last time I played soccer competitively (using the word loosely) was for my junior high school team, in 8th grade. Being very slow, and relatively tall, I played left fullback, across from our best player, Ralf Venne, the right fullback. When I was fortunate enough to dispossess an opponent I would quickly pass the ball forward to the outside half, the slightly-less-hapless-than-I Kevin Ellsberry, or the left middle half back (I can't remeber if that was Brian Kehoe or John Corr); I knew, given my skills, that more than one touch on the ball would result in embarrassment and the strong possibility of the ball whizzing past our keeper, the malapropristic Mark Agazzi, and into the net. It is evident both that we were playing a 2-4-4, and that our coach, Mr. Reynolds, didn't have a clue. I know we didn't win a match, and I can't remember whether we managed to score a single goal.Anyway, Jonathan Wilson's highly entertaining book examines the evolution of tactics on the pitch, from the sanguine and freewheeling 2-3-5 formation, where you had five players going hell for leather at the opponent's goal, skills and defense be damned, to its polar opposite, the systematic and occasionally paranoid clampdown of the 5-3-2. The book also serves as an excellent history of the game; I always feel that Association Football (soccer, football, futbol, calcio, etc) has been around from time immemorial, forgetting that, as an organized sport with codified rules, and as a professional sport, Baseball is older than soccer. The rapidity of soccer's spread throughout the globe is nothing short of breathtaking.

  • Ramnath Vaidyanathan
    2019-04-16 15:11

    Quite simply, the finest book written on football. Don't let the title fool you - this isn't just a treatise on tactics. Jonathan Wilson uses tactics as a parameter to depict the evolution of the beautiful game, from the ultra attacking 2-3-5 in its infancy, to the basic flat four defensive lineups we are so used to today. There are two things that really struck me about the book - one, the number of countries and clubs that have had a major influence on how the game evolved extend far beyond the usual "big" names. E.g. Who would've known that Austria's contribution to the footballing world - the Danubian whirl - was so significant in the pre-war years? Or that the USSR were pioneers in using data analytics to assess players? Second, the significance of a country's socio-cultural mindset on its footballing style e.g. Italy's ultra defensive catenaccio and its roots in the country's historical insecurities.I read this book a few years ago, and it has almost become my proselytizing tool whenever I talk tactics to a fellow football fan. Quite simply put, you cannot afford not to read this if you love the game in any shape or form.

  • Robert
    2019-04-18 11:13

    Wow I think that page count is wrong. It must be over 600... Seemed like.. This could be the most obscure thing I've finished reading. The history is pretty interesting for about half the book. Then the stream of names and numbers is just too much for me. Perhaps this history is so difficult because Football is the most global of sports. There are just too many people and places to try and put together. I suspect a book of this length could be written on any one of the countries or major clubs discussed. I'll go out on a limb and sum up the book: Most of the West tries to define the game with plans and systems: Success follows study. Enland, on the other hand, prefers semi-organized chaos on the pitch, and as such do not consistently win at the highest levels. Discuss.

  • Scott
    2019-04-19 16:33

    I hesitate to mark down a book because it wasn't what I wanted, but this book grabbed me in the first 15% and the last 15% where it really delved nicely into the tactical strategies. In between it was much more a biography of coaches, seemingly concerned more with personalities instead of tactics. I was hoping for more textbook and less anecdotes.

  • Saajid
    2019-03-26 15:36

    I have to begin by saying that I'm not one of those (often FM-addicted) football fans obsessed with tactics and statistics. However, I am very interested in football history and this book does a great job of telling it right from its beginning to the time of writing through the changes in formations and footballing ideologies, and it's truly fascinating.

  • Maycon Dimas
    2019-03-23 16:33

    For those who enjoy — ahem! — football tactis this book is a bible. It does cover its history thoroughly and shed a light on how, for example, the magnificent Barça of Guardiola's came to be. But if you're just a fan of the sport this book will sound like nothing more than a collection of hyphenised numbers and assorted names that in the end make the reading understandably disruptive.

  • Ipswichblade
    2019-04-18 16:16

    After a few recent fairly poor books on football, this has been a delight to read. A really well researched book on tactics and why and how they were introduced. It also focuses on the managers and coaches who invented and used the tactics. It doesn't get bogged down in too much technical info which makes for a great read

  • Ben
    2019-03-28 17:21

    Jonathan Wilson’s encyclopedic narrative explores the evolution of on-field soccer tactical strategies, (commonly just referred to as “tactics”) throughout the history of the game. Mr. Wilson’s masterfully detailed and well-organized account offers the most compelling case for the importance of tactics that any fan could ever hope to read. At times it can be dry, but I imagine it is the seminal popular history of soccer tactics, as well as a worthy face on the Mount Rushmore of books on soccer history itself.Admittedly, I was initially skeptical about Mr. Wilson’s premise that tactics are that important. When I watch soccer on TV, I don’t usually notice them. I see skill, technique, and energy. But, it’s tactics that seek to combine and harmonize these elements- to ultimately synthesize something greater than the whole and give the manager’s team an advantage over the opponent. Or in the case of a more brutish boss, it’s the lack of tactics that are more likely to foil any dreams of glory. I always knew tactics were there, but like the author’s English colleagues, I placed them on a stepstool rather than a pedestal. But, as I found out, to dismiss the story of tactics is to dismiss a fundamental part of the story of soccer.Through meticulous detail that I can only imagine was teased out of a lifetime of research in the darkly lit halls of old Gothic libraries with creaky floorboards, majestic ceiling arches, and bookshelves with the trappings of acrophobia hidden somewhere near a catacomb, Mr. Wilson coherently and comprehensively lays down the crisscrossing, country-jumping, time-skipping tales of unique characters and cultures that shaped the forefront of the game throughout its history. Just like in life itself, the tensions between beauty and pragmatism, fluidity and structure, authoritarianism and affability, and the individual and the system seem to be forever manifest.Even though the author tends to focus on the characters of the game, he does note many of the externalities that have profoundly influenced it, e.g. the rise of professionalism, computers, sports science, and television (the more macroeconomically-inclined reader should check out Soccernomics as well). Because these externalities simultaneously are influenced by culture and influence culture itself, while culture influences tactics and tactics influences the tactics of others (and in some countries, the game no doubt further influences culture), this book is a neat case study on system evolution. Indeed, in tactics, as well as in anything that evolves, whatever is is, until it isn’t anymore.As with many manmade systems, there are also some comically sad steps backward. I was shocked to learn about the original top-heavy formations you would never see in today’s game (not even in EA’s FIFA!). Early on, these formations were treated like dogma- the “right way” to play- and the original purveyors of the game clung to them with obnoxious obstinacy. In another example, I don’t know what could be more emblematic of a faded empire than staking one of things the population is most passionate about on a crotchety old man’s complete and dour misinterpretation of data.One wrinkle that the author acknowledges, however briefly, is that sometimes the tactic of no tactics is the best tactic. When Brian Clough stormed the First Division from the Second with Nottingham Forrest, he dispensed tactics in favor of granting somewhat nebulous responsibilities to each individual player. In this way, the players essentially self-organized into a powerhouse, however short-lived. This management style, which absolutely fascinates me, gives the most power to those closest to the action. If tenable at all in the modern game, I'd love to see more coaches and teams play out this philosophy. (Funnily enough, Mr. Wilson also wrote a book entitled "Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You: The Biography.")But I digress. This book presents a very convincing canon for the history of soccer, but I must take away one star due to the academic writing style that was more Carlos Bilardo than César Luis Menotti (then again, it is a prose history of soccer tactics after all). In his epilogue in my 2013 edition, Mr. Wilson ponders what will become of tactics in this age of incredibly fast information when any team can see what their opponent is doing on TV or the internet. I can only wonder what Mr. Wilson would have to say about Leicester City’s unlikely championship as well as Iceland’s outsized emergence on the international scene. Actually, I am going to go look up his thoughts on those subjects as soon as I’m done writing this review. As said in the epigraph, felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, indeed.

  • Edwin Setiadi
    2019-04-12 14:10

    A very smart book, on a passionately entertaining subjectThis is the fascinating long history of the Great Game, from the tactical perspectives and the philosophies that come with them.The book began right from where it all started: the meeting organised by H.C. Malden of Godalming, Surrey, in his Cambridge rooms in 1848, which summons university representatives of Harrow, Eaton, Shrewsbury, Winchester, Rugby, and 2 non-public schoolboys, to create the first unified Laws of the Game, the "Cambridge Rules." The rules then spread around the world in the next few decades via British men of various occupations, blended in with the local culture and create distinctively local style of play, until it became a truly global phenomenon in the 20th century.The title of the book brilliantly captures this phenomenon, through the evolution of its formation from the pyramid-like shape 2-3-5 in the early days, to 3-2-5, 4-2-4, 4-4-2 to the inverted pyramid shape 4-5-1 and even 4-6-0 that several teams use today, complete with all the advantages-disadvantages, blank spots, and all the major incidents that colour the many transformations. Within this long tactical evolution the author, Jonathan Wilson, demonstrates a very thorough research down to the smallest incidents on any match played, such as a big match in 1890 or 1953 when there weren't even a television coverage. And he can describe the socio-cultural influences of every team thoughout history. For instance, the style of play of a football team is apparently largely influenced by the contemporary political system and economic condition, like in Italy and Spain in 1930s and Argentina in 1960s when they were under military dictatorship they played a tough, muscular, and pragmatic football.The book also delightfully gives small trivial facts every now and then, such as the first man to be caught offside after the 1866 law change was Charles W. Alcock. Or how the father of modern football, Viktor Maslov, was the first to use 4-4-2 formation. Or that time Louis Van Gaal dropped his troussers in Bayern Munich's dressing room, to literally show that he "has the balls" to drop star names.As football evolves, so do the chapters in the book. And we'll move forward from the likes of the day rugby separated itself from football to the most exciting part for me, the tactics that differentiates modern football from the old: pressing. And this is where it really gets down to business. The book gives the technical explanations of a lot of matches and team set-up, a lot of which gives a whole new angle on the matches we thought we knew when we watch them. Such as how Greece can (deservedly) won Euro 2004, by controling matches without even controling the ball. Why Sergio Busquet was the most vital player in Guardiola's Barcelona. And why Arrigo Sacchi had to instruct Carlo Anchelotti to train an hour early with the youth team to make sure his playmaker understands his specific tactics.Jonathan Wilson declared right in the beginning that he loves Bielsa-esque style of play, with high speed passings and high pressure. And it shows. The discussion of modern football evolve mainly on the style of Bielsa, Sacchi and Cruyff and their descendants like Guardiola and Van Gaal, and not so much on the style applied, for example, by Alex Ferguson, Marcello Lippi, or Jose Mourinho, although their styles (and many more modern managers' styles) are still analysed albeit not as thorough.Just like when watching these fast-paced footballing style, reading the analysis of the tactics, in almost scientific approach, is just downright exhilarating. It gives a bright shining light on how the modern game is really constructed, and makes Marcelo Bielsa in particular - and his protégés - looks nothing short of a genius. A very enjoyable reading!

  • Matthijs Snepvangers
    2019-04-01 19:37

    Jonathan Wilson is op dit moment een van de beste voetbalschrijvers ter wereld. Van zijn hand kwamen al klassiekers als Angels With Dirty Faces (geschiedenis van het Argentijnse voetbal) en Nobody Ever Says Thank You (biografie over Brian Clough). In een van zijn eerste werken bespreekt hij de historie van de voetbaltactiek. Een verhaal waarbij je denkt aan saaie, droge kost. Niet bij Wilson, de Brit heeft er een makkelijk te lezen verhaal van gemaakt.Het boek gaat niet uitgebreid in op Pep-achtige tactische vraagstukken of minutieuze historische veranderingen. De schrijver kiest voor de grote lijnen uit de geschiedenis, maar vraagt wel wat historische voetbalkennis van de lezer. Logisch natuurlijk; iemand die voetbalboekontmaagding ondergaat, kan beter Gijp pakken dan een klassieker over tactiek.Dit weet Wilson ook; wat basiskennis over de Magische Magyaren of La Grande Inter is wel makkelijk, echter geen noodzaak. Wilson kiest er in zijn boek voor om aan de hand van een aantal gerenommeerde coaches (zoals Champman, Hogan) of bekende tactieken (zoals catenaccio, totaalvoetbal) de lezer mee te nemen. Kortom: hou je van geschiedenis en voetbal, dan verdient dit pareltje een plaats in je boekenkast. Dat vonden ze ook in Groot-Brittannië: daar werd het boek uitgeroepen tot Voetbalboek van het Jaar.

  • Ebenezer Lancerio
    2019-04-17 12:34

    The in-depth book analyzes the evolution of football within the last 150 years and offers snippets of revolutionary changes for clubs and countries alike. Wilson bounces back and forth between the both, and describes how each era of domination on behalf of Holland, Germany, Argentina, and Spain are in part due to the club domination within that country. The book also weaves culture and the evolution of the game seamlessly. For example, I found the perspective of football managing under the constructs of the USSR fascinating, as compared to the rebellious nature of Amsterdam in the 60's and 70's, and how that influenced the next 40 years of Total Football. The illustrations within the first half of the book simply describe players and their formations. A great addition would be, as shown in the latter half of the book, a visual description of the movement of players. I would also suggest reading the book in snippets, as the countless name dropping of managers and players, scores of vital games, and formation names can be too much at times. I found myself dragging on the reading. I will also say that the last quarter of the book (starting from 70's Holland) was easier to digest than the first 3/4ths. Overall, I learned crucial things that will make viewing soccer more enjoyable.

  • Nick
    2019-03-31 13:36

    Beyond essential for any football fan.Inverting the Pyramid markets itself as the history of football tactics, and on the surface that's just what it is (and it does a fabulous job of recounting that history). Yet there is a line in the opening few pages that explains why it reaches beyond that with such ease; while Wilson recounts a conversation that takes place at a dinner party, he explains how, when one man (a Brit, naturally) declares boldly that tactics are largely irrelevant as long as you have good players, a woman (Argentinian, inevitably) steps in to stop another man putting him in his place with a quiet word - there's no need to react to such idiocy. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that tactics are everything.As far as this book goes, tactics really are everything - they're culture, they're society, they're personality, they're tales of personal success, failure, and redemption. Tatics, for Wilson, is a constant that underpins the development of football on a much grander, wider scale. Observe, for instance, how well this book makes you feel like you know and understand Austrian legend Matthais Sindelar despite the fact he died in 1939. Only a tiny fraction of this book's readers will have seen him play in any capacity (those sent over to YouTube by their curiosity will find a disappointingly, if understandingly, meagre selection of videos), yet the way Wilson frames Sindelar in terms of not just his tactical role in the Austrian Wunderteam, but also the way he redefined the image of what a footballer should be and became a hero of Vienna's intellectual middle classes; he was, as the book explains, seen in his day as one of the city's great artists, and this marked the first time football as a sport had been seen in this way. The book is rich with detail like this - each new tactical detail, particularly those before the '90s, is introduced as a part of a complex system of developments in government (Italy's World Cup winning side of 1934 is related to the ideals of fascism), or society (Ajax's Total Football and Amsterdam's newly-empowered psychedelic-era youth), or previous events in football history (the tale of England's World Cup win of 1966 starts with the infamous defeat to Hungary's Mighty Magyars in 1953), or the personalities and personal histories of the people involved (Arrigo Sacchi and Valeriy Lobanovskyi particularly).Impressively, all these individual details pull together into an easily summarized arc; one the title sums up within three words, in fact. The reason the book is named Inverting the Pyramid is that it starts with football's earliest days, when team lined up in a 1-2-7 formation with 7 forwards all running in straight forward lines and just three defenders, and culimates with the modern trend to have either a single frontman, a series of interchanging frontmen designed to confuse the opposition defences, or no recognised centre forward at all (examples provided include the constant positional interchanging of Man Utd's Champions League winning front four of Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo, and Giggs, Roma's noted preference for 4-6-0 under Luciano Spalletti, and Lionel Messi's role as a false nine for Barcelona, blurring the lines between attack and midfield). This gradual erosion of the number of forwards is explained in great detail - the book's description of space is a particular highlight of this, as it delves not only into who had what space to operate in on the pitch, and how the shifting of certain players into new areas allowed them more of it, but also how the technical and physical demands places upon certain positions changed over time due to the ever-decreasing (wingers, target men) or ever-expanding (full-backs, anchormen) space they had, and how this in turn led to new sort of players (inside forwards, trequartistas, wing-backs) and new formations and tactics to get the best out of them. This book, quite simply, will make you see football in a different way. The recent El Clasico encounters, for instance, have become much more enjoyable for me as I've started to realize how Barcelona are (without meaning to hype them up too much) the culmination of 100 years of footballing thought, and in turn started to really understand the size of the task that Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid face in stopping them. Outside of tactics, too, I'm seeing things like David Beckham's stint in America and the fee Madrid paid for Ronaldo in a new light; it seems bizarre for me to say this, because I've never had any trouble seeing music (the only passion I have that outweighs football) as a cultural and social force that changes in relation to world events, but it took this book to show me that football is the same.Football365 suggested about a month ago that Inverting the Pyramid should be turned into a six-part TV series. I couldn't agree more. England suffers, both in terms of our players and our fans, from a general lack of tactical knowledge and appreciation - not because football fans are stupid (far from it in most cases), but because in comparison to every other European footballing superpower, our media doesn't treat tactics as something worth appreciating or studying. Dutch academies, as memorably noted in one passage here, send their children home with tactics homework. The Sun, on the other hand, tells a nation every two years that a 4-4-2 and good old British courage and grit is enough to win major honours. This is changing recently - managers like Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Andre Villas-Boas, Tony Pulis, and Brendan Rogers are bringing tactical discussion to the surface in recent years with their various impressive achievements - but there needs to be more. It annoys the hell out of me when I hear people say that 'if everybody heard this album/saw this film/listened to this comedian, the world would be a better place', but here is possibly the only occasion ever where I'd agree - if everybody in football read this book and absorbed all its information, the world (of football) would be a much, much better place. The best sports book of all time?

  • Gene de Gourville
    2019-04-14 17:37

    I wanted to read this book for a while but once I finally got to it I was a bit disappointed. That isn't to say that this isn't a good book or that I would not recommend it to someone, but I personally had a tough time getting through it. I am a big fan of the sport of soccer and have been for my entire life but I found most of this book to be tedious and a dry read. Once the book progressed to the 70's through present I found it more fluid, but that may of course be because the subject matter focused on players and teams that I was more aware of. The problem for me was that most of the book was spent describing tactics (or the lack thereof) in the early days by focusing simply on the coaches and their backgrounds and not really fleshing out the coaching behind a lot of the subtle changes that occurred. Once the book progressed to modern times where tactics have a lot more complexity to it, the book seemed to end suddenly. I do think that it is a worthwhile book, but it certainly missed its mark with me.

  • Fred
    2019-03-25 19:17

    This book is exhaustive and exhausting. Jonathan Wilson tells the story of the evolution of soccer tactics across 150 years. In short he wants to show that coaches inverted the pyramid from a 2-3-5 full of attacking players sending the ball down field to the W-M, to a 4-3-3, then 4-4-2, then 3-5-2/ 3-5-1, which when dropping into defense became a default 5-3-2, inverting the pyramid. At times the book sparkles telling anecdotes of rouge visionaries who dreamed of increasing width, keeping possession, moving wingers inside -anything to get an edge. But for every chapter on AJAX of the 70s or Barcelona there is another on the evolution defending in the Soviet Union and the coffee bars of Australia in the 19th century. It can be exhausting: Great to have, great to skim through and read in pieces, hard to read cover to cover.