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Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics: A History of Football Tactics [Hardcover]

Jonathan Wilson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Jun 2008
Whether it's Terry Venables keeping his wife up late at night with diagrams on scraps of paper spread over the eiderdown, or the classic TV sitcom of moving the salt & pepper around the table top in the transport cafe, football tactics are now part of the fabric of everyday life. Steve McLaren's recent switch to an untried 3-5-2 against Croatia will probably go down as the moment he lost his slim credibility gained from dropping David Beckham; Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, is often brought to task for trying to smuggle the long ball game back into English football (his defence being his need to 'break the lines' of banks of defenders and midfielders). Jonathan Wilson is an erudite and detailed writer, but never loses a sense of the grand narrative sweep, and here he pulls apart the modern game, traces the world history of tactics back from modern pioneers such as Rinus Michels and Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the Swiss origins of Catenaccio and Herbert Chapman, right back to beginning where chaos reigned. Along the way he looks at the lives of great players and thinkers who shaped the game, and probes why the English, in particular, have 'proved themselves unwilling to grapple with the abstract'. This is a modern classic of football writing to rank with David Winner's 'Brilliant Orange' and Simon Kuper's 'Football Against the Enemy'.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (26 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752889958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752889955
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 343,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A masterful work, It's all deliciously nerdy - a cross between a coaching manual and a social history - and if its publication helps foster a flowering of interest in the tactical and analytical side of the game in this country, it could be the best thing to have happened to English football in years.****' (TIME OUT - Book of the Week)

Facts and stats, plus anecdotes, interviews and Wilson's deft touch with football-speak, give colour to a subject that can be a little dry and all-too confusing for those watching (and often those picking the side). (GQ)

For a detailed analysis of how a single striker became the norm throughout football, you had better read Jonathan Wilson's excellent new book about tactics. (Patrick Barclay SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

[A] fascinating history of tactics, a book that is guaranteed to enhance your football watching; your team may still lose, but you'll have a far better idea why they did. (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

This must surely go down as one of the most revelatory sports books of the year, as well as one of the best, who would have thought that a book charting the history of football tactics and strategy, from the 1870s to the present day, could be so engrossing and entertaining. (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

Absorbing and informative (GUARDIAN ON-LINE)

A gloriously readable, eccentric and informative trawl through the changing tactical mindsets and formations that have helped shape the beautiful game. (METRO)

You will never read a more entertaining or erudite history of tactics (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH - Christmas Books)

This is a masterful piece of research and lives up to the claim to be nothing less than "a history of football tactics"... Facinating (SCOTSMAN - Books of the Year)

a fascinating analysis of the way the game has evolved tactically from the 1970s until the last season... as a summary of the first 140 years of football tactical history, it is hard to imagine a more readable or thorough effort. (IRISH EXAMINER)

Book Description

First-ever comprehensive global history of football tactics by the highly acclaimed sports writer Jonathan Wilson

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing insight into the beautiful game 13 Jan 2010
This book is well worth your money if you're a fan of football. The information presented there is very detailed, with lots of interesting facts. The overall style of writing is engaging and intelligent. The text is supplemented with easy-to-understand diagrams (formations, tactics) and there are also photos (in color) in the middle of the book. But the most valuable feature of this book is, of course, the subject matter itself. Never before have I seen such a detailed work on the evolution of football tactics. It has to be said, even though this book is focused on the tactical aspect of the game, it is obviously not only about 4-4-2's and the like, there is actually plenty of history in there as well (and 'plenty' is an understatement). Overall I can definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in football. You will not be disappointed. And last but not least: 'Inverting The Pyramid' is actually just pretty fun to read, you know, like a book, as if there was a plot. A sporting page-turner, if I may say so.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance. Everything to love about football. 19 Mar 2009
I would like to see all the UK's cliche-spouting, brain-deadening, parochial and myopic TV pundits suspended until they've read, and can pass a written test on this book. There's more sense in a few pages than I've ever heard from Alan Hansen. Anyone who ever again says "You just need to pick the best 11 players... ". There should be an official injunction against Kevin Keegan ever becoming manager at another club.

The best part is, it looks like a dry technical textbook.. but it's actually madly passionate about the game, the characters, the colour, the place of football in wider-culture and the national identity.

His analysis of Croatia v England during the qualifiers for Euro08 is deeply cathartic; explaining specifically and simply how we were so effectively carved up. I was also amazed by the evidence showing that England's football character hasn't changed in 100-odd years - from the start the game here was about passion and workrate over technique and skill (this is only just starting to change). And by his explanation of how the game spread around the world via trade routes. And by his observation that Real Madrid are habitually the whipping boys of whichever club is the new force in Europe (Benfica, Ajax, AC Milan..) - so hello Liverpool. I was surprised by the heat and violence of the Argentine game, and the bewildering decay of Uruguay and Hungary. And Roy Hodgson, what a bloke!

The one thing I thought is missing from the book is an in-depth analysis of Wenger at Arsenal and the shake-up he's given the UK game, though now I've reached the end I suspect he would say that, as beautiful as they can be to watch, there's nothing new tactically (they're basically a traditional 4-4-2..)

Oh and some technical insight into the great Lampard-Gerrard paradox.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars destined to become a classic 9 Nov 2008
this is quite possibly the best book on sports that i have ever read. Much more than a history of the tactical evolution of football, it is a fascinating account of why football has become the most loved and watched sport on the planet. it is comprehensive in its detail, but never less than readable and engrossing - i am currently on my second time through. it is very well illustrated with diagrams that explain the text. i cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who loves the sport and is interested in how it got to where we are now, or for that matter to anyone just interested in the history of the world over the last century or so - a great read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scarily True 24 July 2010
I read this book during the 2010 Football World Cup and it really shows how little has changed with regards to the English attitude towards football. Some of the debate about the changes needed for the future development of English football. It offers compelling tactical insight into the game and charts the tactical developments since the advent of the game. A truly great book for those wanting to understand the development of tactics and for those looking for tactical innovations for Football Manager.

Great read and highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read for Footy Fans 6 Jan 2010
Being a football fan who is particularly interested in the tactical side of the game, this book was something that caught my eye having been highly praised by various websites, and having read it myself, it truly does deserve the praise it has received.

Essentially, this book charts the significant changes in the way football is played, from the early English schoolboy days, where the ephasis was almost soley on dribbling, to the fancy passing play of the Hungarians in the fifties, the beautiful attacking football from Brazil, the solid Catenaccio in Italian teams, the Dutch "Total Football" in the seventies, long ball direct outfits in the eighties up to the present day. Every era is explored in great detail, with a seamless flow to the book, as each chapters leads neatly to the next one, describing and explaining the shifts in mentality occuring in the footablling world, detailing the important figures who revolutionised the game with great tactical innovations and how many ideas were borrowed and used as blue-prints for further developments. Importantly, the book also shows how different approaches to the game were forged in different regions of the world, as a result of cultural traditions and climate/environment, providing an insight into the reasons for the various evoutions in the game.

Whilst tactial formations, from the 2-3-5 to the 4-3-3 are the main focus of the book, other areas, such as specific offenive and defensive strategies are also explored in detail, such as the shift to more possesion-based football, and the rise in defensive "pressure", which have changed the way the game is played, and how they interlink with specific formations.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ... the second half of the 20th century it's a good read.
Heavy going at first but once you get to the second half of the 20th century it's a good read.
Published 11 days ago by GarthP
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Truley excellent read!
Published 1 month ago by david
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well received gift for the football pundit.
Published 1 month ago by Bigshopper48
5.0 out of 5 stars If your interested in how football tactics have evolved this is the...
Great book. Amongst those who know (which is not me!) this is viewed as one of the top all time football tactics books.
Published 2 months ago by nick macinnes
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy customer
Good value for money..good delivery service... Easy to order... Happy customer
Published 2 months ago by T
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As described
Published 3 months ago by Mrs. S. Wardale
4.0 out of 5 stars Top-Class Football tactics history for the football
If you're glued to the Wilson's work in the Guardian or an avid reader of football blogs such as then this is the book for you. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Daniel Kelly
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't quite live up to the hype
A very pleasant read, some interesting analysis at times. However, I just felt it missed something. I was really looking forward to reading this but it just fell short of my... Read more
Published 4 months ago by shaun_81
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, bit slow at times but accessible
A good book for anyone with an interest in football and getting a better insight into the history/development of tactics. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. R. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Did not want it to end
Such a fantastic book. One of the only books, I've ever read where I was actually fearful of its ending. Throughly enjoyed. Learnt so much. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ryan Grey
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