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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 (88 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'.

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 (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 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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25 of 26 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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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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 8 Oct 2010
Insightful, interesting, highly educational. A wonderful book.

Highly recommended for football fanatics and for those who wish to understand a country's cultural influences as demonstrated through football.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect 5 Jan 2009
Wonderful book, couldn't put it down. Absolutely fascinating. The only criticism I would have is of the final chapter, dealing with the most recent developments. It jars with the rest of the book in assuming knowledge and introducing new people without any sort of background. The assumptions are probably fair, but it jars with the storytelling of the rest of the book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch punditry on the page. 25 Aug 2009
By russell clarke TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Remember that old Harry Enfield sketch where old footballers ran in a line just chasing the ball? Well that's not too far off how the game was once and then somebody got the idea that wouldn't it be better if we started using more of the pitch , didn't just kick and rush and started passing the ball to each other. Thus the game evolved and then kept on evolving . And one of these days somebody will inform Everton .
Silly jibes aside Inverting The Pyramid is a truly fascinating meticulously researched book on the history of football tactics . What it ultimately concludes with regard to English football is that we value ,perceived effort, graft and toil above tactical nous and technical ability ,something already capably covered in the book Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Football. Until this is remedied and we learn to play to systems using the correct balance of players ,rather than shoehorning in badly matched combinations of the "best" players ( Gerrard & Lampard is the most glaring example ) then we will struggle against the best international teams.
This book though isn't xenophobic in it's viewpoint , covering tactical innovations throughout the game from Brazil , Russia , Austria , Italy , Hungary and Argentina and indeed concentrating mainly on the way coaches from abroad have moved the game on. From Herbert Chapman , manager of Arsenal who invented the W-M system to Hugo Meisl who had Austria playing a 2-3-5 to the great Hungarian side of the 1950,s a "hairs-breadth" from 4-2-4 to the Brazil side coached by Vincete Feola who actually were a 4-2-4 to the all conquering AC Milan managed by Arrigo Sacchi who played 4-4-2 this book covers all the permutations .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
It is very exciting and informative book. Never knew that much information about the history of football and its tactics before. Read more
Published 5 hours ago by Tarek
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
this book is good enough for me. the best bit is that it is always going on about stoke. their habits and technique and the way that they play.
Published 21 days ago by Matthew Copping
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical overview biased by some personal judgements
This is a very good book about the evolution of football and its tactics. Very complete and easy to read. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr. Carlo N. Colacino
5.0 out of 5 stars Football tactics Bible
Great book and great reading. Read it in one breath so to say. For someone who loves football this is sort of a Bible of football tactics. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mali_Zeus
5.0 out of 5 stars great book for people who love football.
Great book on tactics played from around world.If you want to understand football more read this great book on tactics.
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant!
A must read for any intelligent football fan, Wilson's blend of tactics, history and philosophy makes sense of the evolution of the beautiful game.
Published 3 months ago by S Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Great value
This book opened my eyes on how tactics are important in modern football. Although in my opinion author put too much effort to write every name of the player of each team. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jaroslaw Tyczynski
5.0 out of 5 stars inverting the pyramid
Can't say for now as it is a Christmas present but I am sure it will be appreciated by my Husband
Published 4 months ago by betty
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read for any fan
As I am now 65 I have seen a lot of the teams and tactics in the book. I would advise any young football fan to read this book .especially enjoyed section on my beloved celtic
Published 4 months ago by Brian
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
It is incredibly detailed and at times slow reading, purely because of the sheer amount of factual information included. Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. Stalker
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