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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 players 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 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.


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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 players 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 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.

30 review for Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Santo

    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 frequentl 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James

    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. 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Russell George

    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 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    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 fun 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).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abhinav

    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 wh 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mahlon

    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 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Otis Chandler

    Will Barnes recommends

  8. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    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?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ipswichblade

    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

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed El-Dhshan

    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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Clay Kallam

    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 knowled 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mikko Karvonen

    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 fr 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amr Fahmy

    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 sp 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    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 f 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    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 ru 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alvin Lo

    When the title is ambiguous, and the sub-title reads "history of women fashion", u expect the book to be more about fashion. Turns out, in this case, it's abt women. It's a book about the history of football, not so much about its tactics. Expect to read about the change in tactics, preferrably with reasons, but utterly disappointed. Keep telling you about the players playing in xxx match, the scoreline, etc. Wonder why all the positive reviews & recommendation by "experts" When the title is ambiguous, and the sub-title reads "history of women fashion", u expect the book to be more about fashion. Turns out, in this case, it's abt women. It's a book about the history of football, not so much about its tactics. Expect to read about the change in tactics, preferrably with reasons, but utterly disappointed. Keep telling you about the players playing in xxx match, the scoreline, etc. Wonder why all the positive reviews & recommendation by "experts"

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thekelburrows

    I miss the World Cup already :(

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mad Hab

    It is a good book. But it is like an encyclopedia. Like you are reading a spreadsheet file. Tons of names, new names every other page. Makes a little boring and hard to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amin Hazem

    A pretty enjoyable read. I've wanted to read this book for years, the topic seemed very interesting to me but mainly because I always liked the name tbh. There're a lot of entertaining stories about how it all started, events behind each development to the game. Besides, it includes some fascinating insight and analysis along the years resulting in what we watch nowadays. The book -as expected- is very informative, too informative perhaps that I had to stop reading it midway for weeks, having to pa A pretty enjoyable read. I've wanted to read this book for years, the topic seemed very interesting to me but mainly because I always liked the name tbh. There're a lot of entertaining stories about how it all started, events behind each development to the game. Besides, it includes some fascinating insight and analysis along the years resulting in what we watch nowadays. The book -as expected- is very informative, too informative perhaps that I had to stop reading it midway for weeks, having to pause every once in a while to google something annoyed me a bit.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Danny Mason

    This was at its best when it was using the tactical development of the game as a way to tell or retell great stories from football's history. It also does a good job of tying these developments in to wider philosophical, political and societal developments. There were times when it got too into the minutiae and felt like a long list of names and dates that I had no chance of engaging with, but considering the subject matter it's impressive that more of the book wasn't like that and for the most This was at its best when it was using the tactical development of the game as a way to tell or retell great stories from football's history. It also does a good job of tying these developments in to wider philosophical, political and societal developments. There were times when it got too into the minutiae and felt like a long list of names and dates that I had no chance of engaging with, but considering the subject matter it's impressive that more of the book wasn't like that and for the most part was enjoyable and readable.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Five stars because it's a stunning achievement and a pleasure to read, but with a few caveats: Note that it's a history of tactics, and not a history of soccer (though there's some of that, including some details on key figures) or an explanation of tactics (though there's some of that, too). It's hard to imagine such a topic being tackled better, although I don't know enough to know, and I wonder what his narrative -- coherent as it is -- must leave out (as any such book would). I could use some Five stars because it's a stunning achievement and a pleasure to read, but with a few caveats: Note that it's a history of tactics, and not a history of soccer (though there's some of that, including some details on key figures) or an explanation of tactics (though there's some of that, too). It's hard to imagine such a topic being tackled better, although I don't know enough to know, and I wonder what his narrative -- coherent as it is -- must leave out (as any such book would). I could use some more diagrams. Some of these concepts are new to me and they're difficult to explain or grasp verbally. I'd also like more breakdowns of some of the diagrams that are there. We sometimes see the lineup for two teams but only a full explanation of what one of the teams is doing. In short, though, this is a phenomenal foundation, and it'll prompt more detailed reading on the areas that particularly interested me. I imagine soccer fans who want to think about thinking will love this, but it won't be a hit for those looking to improve their playing or coaching (though it won't hurt).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    A good overview and history of soccer tactics. Not the easiest book to breeze through, especially the first the half of it, but it does present a decent payoff. I need to check out the updated version now to see what has been added.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Spiros

    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, gi 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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael Grace

    American exceptionalism, or at least the residual effects thereof, prevented me from understanding soccer for the better part of the first three decades of my life. The architectural substance of a well-played team can be a thing of true human beauty, something beyond what the tension/drama of baseball or intense immediacy of basketball can bring. Inverting The Pyramid is a transcendent soccer book. It is one of the most thorough and most unique histories of any game, and fittingly so. Though th American exceptionalism, or at least the residual effects thereof, prevented me from understanding soccer for the better part of the first three decades of my life. The architectural substance of a well-played team can be a thing of true human beauty, something beyond what the tension/drama of baseball or intense immediacy of basketball can bring. Inverting The Pyramid is a transcendent soccer book. It is one of the most thorough and most unique histories of any game, and fittingly so. Though the focus is largely centered on the tactical evolution of European soccer, the subsequent ripples the Euro game sent across the globe are staggering. From the beauty and brutality of the Italian game to the pragmatism and insecurity of English football, soccer design and influence is heavily reliant on the culture that adapts it. Inverting The Pyramid stretches from the primitive ages of club soccer in the mid-19th century England to the relative present and the brilliance and systemic success of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. This is, in not nearly enough words, one of the finest sports books ever written. With a prose worthy of the grand scale of its undertaking, Jonathan Wilson's history of how the world's game is perfected and proliferated is a wholehearted recommend despite its density and mountainous narrative that can overwhelm casual readers. This book is worth the effort.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ramnath Vaidyanathan

    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 th 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan Lee

    Three stars is perhaps a bit harsh, but four would have been equally generous. The author does an excellent job of telling the narrative. My (small, relatively unimportant) complaint is that it's very Anglocentric - virtually every development in the history of the sport, whether in Brazil, Hungary, or Cote d'Ivoire, is then placed in the context of England. I get it...the author is English and the book is intended for an English audience, but it became tiresome for me as a non-Englishman. Also, i Three stars is perhaps a bit harsh, but four would have been equally generous. The author does an excellent job of telling the narrative. My (small, relatively unimportant) complaint is that it's very Anglocentric - virtually every development in the history of the sport, whether in Brazil, Hungary, or Cote d'Ivoire, is then placed in the context of England. I get it...the author is English and the book is intended for an English audience, but it became tiresome for me as a non-Englishman. Also, it sometimes reads more like an encyclopedia than a story. This is not necessarily a bad thing for a book about history, but it makes it kind of a slog sometimes. Overall, though, it's a well written book that accomplishes that which it set out to accomplish.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    As good as advertised, though I enjoyed this best when reading chunks of a chapter here and there on trains or in a car. The many different editions throughout the evolution of tactics and style were well-taken with a bit of separation (in the form of a break) between them. I definitely learned a few things and had others reinforced. The breadth and depth of research (check out the bibliography!) and analysis (sometimes a little abstract for even me, without the aid of an advanced visual, I guess As good as advertised, though I enjoyed this best when reading chunks of a chapter here and there on trains or in a car. The many different editions throughout the evolution of tactics and style were well-taken with a bit of separation (in the form of a break) between them. I definitely learned a few things and had others reinforced. The breadth and depth of research (check out the bibliography!) and analysis (sometimes a little abstract for even me, without the aid of an advanced visual, I guess) led to some of the material being unatttainable, which I consider a good thing as long as it’s just the right amount.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kundan Jha

    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.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Saajid

    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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    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.

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