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on 19 March 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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on 13 January 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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on 9 November 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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on 15 June 2009
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.

If you are actively engaged with coaching, the book is a must-read. You will have the motivation to pick carefully through the detail - though you may still be disappointed by some of the formation diagrams, which don't always relate neatly to the text.

If you are just reading for pleasure, however,you are likely to find it increasingly hard going, and monotonous in its approach.

Sadly it becomes a little like watching George Graham's Arsenal, when what you long for is a little Wenger. But then there was much to admire even in boring Arsenal, and so it is with Inverting the Pyramid. Expect to learn a lot, but not to be entertained.
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on 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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on 26 October 2015
I really enjoyed this book. I wouldn't say I am a tactics geek but I am interested in knowing a bit more than what the pundits say, mainly because they don't often say anything very insightful. I've also dabbled with tactics managing a Sunday league football team and wanted to deepen my knowledge.

This book opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about tactics and helped me understand what has influenced different teams' style of play. The early history was a bit dull but there are some riveting stories in there, like the way the WW1 PoW team played and why, the background to the modern pressing game, the dysfunctional history of English tactical approaches and, of course, the story of total football and its modern incarnation in Barcelona. It is hard when you aren't old enough to know or remember some of the personalities and teams but I know where to look now.

Buy it, stick with it through the first few chapters, and I doubt you'll regret it.
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on 2 March 2015
You might be forgiven to think that a book subtitled "The history of football tactics" would be boring. It isn't! In an entertaining way, the author sketches the history and development of football from the middle of the 19th century (the first unified Laws of the Game were drawn up in Cambridge) to the European championships of 2012. You'll read about some extremely influential people you've never heard of, and of singular matches that changed the attitude of a coountry towards how the game should be played. And of course about the important roles that three Dutchmen have played (Michels, Cruijff, van Gaal), not least in creating the Spanish side that won three consecutive titles. Pity, then, that the 2014 World Cup isn't covered where van Gaal's moderately talented Dutch side demolished two of the favourites (Spain 5-1, Brazil 3-0) by using an old-fashioned and un-Dutch 5-3-2 formation. (Just remembered that when I started playing as a 6-year-old, my team adopted a 3-2-5 formation, which was very common at the time.)
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on 27 December 2014
An interesting book that takes a long time to get into. This is a topic I'm fairly interested in, so thought I'd delve into the history of it all - and boy is it in here! The author clearly has done his research, almost too much so! I found myself having to think twice about a couple of things, and use my imagination with some of the descriptions. It's also a test of memory when it comes to linking players names with teams, and teams with coaches, and coaches with tactics and formations, and then back with players again!

I'm pretty good with football history, so it held my attention, but for others it may be worth cherry picking the earlier stuff to see how it relates to the later stuff, which will be more familiar to most of us. It is certainly interesting to see how the early stuff lead to the later stuff, but it's not imperative for all.

Overall, a good read, but very indepth, and you might get tired at times! You WILL learn stuff though!
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VINE VOICEon 25 August 2009
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 .
There are diagrams laying out the formations with arrows pointing out where players were expected to shift and cover .These can be a tad confusing but do help but it's not just the formations its, the overall tactics that play a part. The sterile catenaccio pioneered by Helenio Herrera and Nereo Rocco is diametrically opposed to the total football envisaged by Rinus Michels .Then there is the pressing game brought to England by none other than the much maligned Graham Taylor and the pressing employed by Sacchi which was more about the "manipulation of space " than closing down the opponent.
Two Englishman are covered extensively in this book .Jimmy Hogan , originally from Burnley , considered to be one of the most influential and brilliant coaches the game has ever seen and the father of central European football and FA technical director Charles Hughes , from...well does it matter ? This is the man who may well have condemned English football to years of blundering inarticulacy from a football perspective .or as Brian Glanville puts it he is the man "who poisoned the wells of English football ". Wilson forensically tears apart his assertion for the long ball game .In fact Wilson pretty much tears apart the way England have approached the game for the last forty years. .
Inverting The Pyramid may be too dry and analytical for some tastes but for anyone remotely interested in football beyond the glamour, showbiz and personalities this is fascinating stuff and the points it makes deeply thought provoking . None more so than his scrutiny of why no top sides came in for Michael Owen when he left Real Madrid ( of course he has now joined Man Utd but the point is still relevant ) and why England were given the run around by Croatia in the qualifiers for Euro 2008. Give the guy a pundits job .
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on 1 September 2013
An odd book i thought insofar as its overly laboured in parts, suitably informative in others and skims over fairly significant developments in other sections. Too much time spent on the first 50 years of football and too little on modern era.
Nonetheless interesting and well researched, I would still recommend this and am enjoying watching football in a new light, although Michael owen says he watches matches now and struggles to see any formation as modern players are so fit and mobile...I've got no chance then!
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