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

Jonathan Wilson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics 4.4 out of 5 stars (95)
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Book Description

28 May 2009

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 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, was often brought to task for trying to smuggle the long ball game back into English football.

Here Jonathan Wilson pulls apart the modern game, traces the world history of tactics from modern pioneers 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'.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409102041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409102045
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This tome delivers a top-class, thorough, and, most importantly, engaging discussion of football tactics. Boring topic, great cover, revelatory book. Buy it. (MAXIM)

an outstanding work, cerebral and fully engaging...the football book of the decade (SUNDAY BUSINESS POST)

the perfect book for an serious follower of football who wants to be enlightened, educated and entertained (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, this is the first-ever comprehensive global history of football tactics by the highly acclaimed sports writer Jonathan Wilson.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 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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26 of 27 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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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Leaves you longing for some direct play 15 Jun 2009
By M. Harrison TOP 500 REVIEWER
In many respects this is the football fan's perfect book: what could be better than an obsessively detailed analysis of tactics and formations? Well, the answer is: one that manages to blend detail with an overarching narrative; one that has a bit more purpose about its play.

Wilson's research and grasp of his subject is truly staggering. He works methodically, chronologically and geographically through a world history of football, meticulously charting the evolution of every tactical formation. In so doing he uncovers national characteristics of the game that are startlingly enduring. The English, it transpires, have distrusted possession football and the deployment of skill over endeavour since their first opponents were unmanly enough to start passing the ball rather than merely charging blindly down the pitch. The Brazilians were happy enough if the game was beautiful: scoring came second. The Argentinians always knew how to play the man first and the ball second. The Russians treated football like an expression of scientific socialism.

And along the way Wilson explains and tracks all the famous ingredients of the football formation: catenaccio, the libero, the sweeper, the playmaker, the wingback.

Initially his thoroughness and knowledge feel like a refreshing release from the empty cliches of everyday football punditry. But after a while it feels as if he is playing the possession game - showing us he holds all the facts, and that he's going to use them to grind out a result. What the book lacks is a thesis. One longs for a rhetorical flourish; for a position; for the book to seem to have a goal. Instead we get every last thing Wilson researched including every anecdote, relevant or not, and every character, colouful and otherwise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy customer
Good value for money..good delivery service... Easy to order... Happy customer
Published 1 day ago by T
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As described
Published 7 days 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 1 month 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 1 month 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 1 month 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 2 months ago by Ryan Grey
5.0 out of 5 stars Defeating the Wily Continentals
This is a superb book as a history of the development, or discovery, or rediscovery, of the tactical side of football, and how the English game always seems to be the one trailing... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Richard Newbold
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 3 months 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 4 months 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 4 months ago by Dr. Carlo N. Colacino
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