Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics” as Want to Read:
Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  3,932 ratings  ·  195 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Orion (first published June 26th 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Inverting the Pyramid, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Marko I bought mine from, but you can find a cheap one from e.g. where a paperback version seems to cost under 12 euros…moreI bought mine from, but you can find a cheap one from e.g. where a paperback version seems to cost under 12 euros (postage included).(less)
Fever Pitch by Nick HornbyInverting the Pyramid by Jonathan  WilsonBrilliant Orange by David WinnerSoccernomics by Simon KuperThe Damned Utd by David Peace
Best Football (Soccer) Books
2nd out of 211 books — 195 voters
Soccernomics by Simon KuperBrilliant Orange by David WinnerInverting the Pyramid by Jonathan  WilsonHow Soccer Explains the World by Franklin FoerThe Ball is Round by David Goldblatt
South Africa World Cup 2010
3rd out of 25 books — 12 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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. ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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
I won't pretend that this is an easy book to read; even a football fan like myself found it very dry and occasionally difficult to continue reading. That said, there is a great deal of fascinating tactical analysis and is clearly written by someone who not only loves the game, but has a clear, and in-depth knowledge of the subject.

As a Scotland fan, Craig Levein's recent foray into an - ultimately disparaged - 4-6-0 formation left me rather deflated but it's clear that the final chapter of this
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 ...more
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
Jul 24, 2010 Spiros rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone suffering World Cup withdrawal symptoms
Shelves: new
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 ...more
Wow I think that page count is wrong. It must be over 600... Seemed like..
This could be the most obscure thing I've finished reading. The history is pretty interesting for about half the book. Then the stream of names and numbers is just too much for me. Perhaps this history is so difficult because Football is the most global of sports. There are just too many people and places to try and put together. I suspect a book of this length could be written on any one of the countries or major clubs d
Shom Biswas
There are some books for which the one-minute book review is insufficient - not because you are full of things to say and you cannot do it concisely (that is YOUR problem, reviewer), but because there are so many things to write about.
There are so many things to write about in this book. To the commoner, Cricket is the game of detailed tactics, and football is the game of hit and run. They cannot be further from the truth. Cricket is essentially a game of skill. Football is essentially the game
It's rarely that I give a non-fiction book 5 stars, but Inverting the Pyramid completely delivers to what it promises.

Jonathan Wilson is spot on if it comes to the book's structure: using a chronological account from the pub in which Rugby and Football decided to split ways halfway through the 19th Century up to Mourinho's frustrating non-footballing tactics and Barcelona's tiki taka geniality. Every chapter focuses on one specific revolution/team/tournament/style, but rather than laying out it
Maycon Dimas
For those who enjoy — ahem! — football tactis this book is a bible. It does cover its history thoroughly and shed a light on how, for example, the magnificent Barça of Guardiola's came to be. But if you're just a fan of the sport this book will sound like nothing more than a collection of hyphenised numbers and assorted names that in the end make the reading understandably disruptive.
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.
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.
Getout Ofmybookcorner
This book was a David Bentley for me. Lots of promise, but ultimately disappointing - not fulfilling the hope I once had.

I have long noted Jonathan Wilsons' insightful views through Match of the Day commentary / other generic footballing means, and the book is clearly very well researched.

For me though (clive), it stressed too much on the actual formations themselves, with too much importance given to the early/earlier days of football.

The last third of the book was by far the most interesting,
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
Sudhamshu Hebbar
Is Football just about 11 players running randomly behind the ball? Is there a method to it? What role does a manager have to play in a set up? Could there possibly be systems in which players are trained? If there is something called tactics, how did it really develop in all these years? This book answers those questions by starting right at the beginning. The beginning of football itself.
Reading the book is like taking a journey from football's inception, trying to visualise how the game was
Mel Siew
A pretty good history of football tactics. It did bring to life the historical differences in various countries approaches to how they play football, and it was interesting to read how over the course of the 20th century how the number of attacking players has gradually reduced and how tactical innovation at various times disrupted the existing order, only to be overthrown by further innovation.

A few too many names to digest at times, but unavoidable in a history really. Like other reviewers I
Josh Mlot
Jonathan Wilson's "Inverting The Pyramid" is precisely what it says it is — a history of soccer tactics. But while there is plenty of more technical information about formations, who ran what and why, the book is more than just that. It's really about the evolution of soccer and its various styles. We learn who influenced what and why. What Wilson has found is the perfect balance between the personalities, teams and tactical breakdown that makes this book extremely readable, entertaining and a m ...more
Rory Foster
I think that it would have helped my understanding and enjoyment, if I were more familiar with the dozens of players he discusses in the examples. This was the biggest weakness for me: because the various systems are inevitably discussed in terms of their individual contributors (around or because of which many of the systems were built), lack of knowledge about these players makes it difficult to fully grasp the challenges and innovations. Will surely read it again - lots to think about and an ...more
Jonathan Wilson’s award-winning book tackles the vast complexities of football tactics from the early days of establishing the rules in England to the downfall of the great Barcelona team managed by Pep Guardiola in the hands of Bayern Munich in roughly chronological order. And he covers the development in minute detail including many lesser known managers who left their mark in the game. Focus is obviously in the great minds who had the greatest effect, such as Jimmy Hogan who is considered the ...more
I read this book to increase my knowledge of soccer, as I have been following the sport for a few years now and wanted to get a better grasp of the history and tactics of the sport. I thought this would be a good book to start with, but it left me disappointed.

The hardest part of the book for me was the constant introduction of new names. I found it hard to follow the important individuals, and know which names are important. When important names are referenced later in the book, I often had to
With the World Cup looming closer and closer, and on the recommendation of a coworker who is also a football fan (we both bought the Panini sticker albums, for reference), I decided it was time for me to learn a little bit more about the beautiful game. Coming in with stories of the indomitable Yugoslavs and Dutch Total Football, I initially thought I didn't need this. Oh, how wrong I was.

Covering the period between the formal establishment of football and Mourinho's first stay at Chelsea, Wilso
Alejandro Shirvani
This is pretty much the "go to" source for the intellectual football fan who likes to be well versed in the history of the game and understand the basics of footballing tactics. The book takes you through the history of the game and the tactical trends and evolutions, centred around the great sides of particular eras that have innovated with new tactics and taken the game forward until the next trend emerges to counter it.

I took one star off rather than giving this maximum rating because in part
A longer version of the following review can be found at the Championship football blog: Inverting the Pyramid

Back in 2006, I wrote a slightly pernickety review of Jonathan Wilson’s Behind the Curtain, a superb overview of the history and current state of East European football. His latest offering, published in paperback earlier this year, could be contender for the best book about soccer ever written. It’s a monumental achievement; a book that leaves you thirsting for more information with eve
Nick Butler
Beyond essential for any football fan.

Inverting the Pyramid markets itself as the history of football tactics, and on the surface that's just what it is (and it does a fabulous job of recounting that history). Yet there is a line in the opening few pages that explains why it reaches beyond that with such ease; while Wilson recounts a conversation that takes place at a dinner party, he explains how, when one man (a Brit, naturally) declares boldly that tactics are largely irrelevant as long as yo
This book was hugely informative, and I'm happy I read it. As a relative newcomer to the sport (been following only since 2003) I was quite weak on my historical knowledge of the game and this helped fill in a lot of blanks. The early part of the book was particularly strong, describing the beginnings of the sport and original tactics. I also enjoyed Wilson's in depth study of Soviet, South American and Central European football tactics and cultures which I knew next to nothing about. The overal ...more
A great discussion of the evolution of soccer tactics over the past 100+ years, perhaps unique in current soccer literature. For my taste, the exposition on the background and club histories of the influential personalities and famous club sides was a bit lengthy. The author, being English, certainly discusses what he terms 'the English pragmatism' in football and discusses notable English teams and managers in detail. This is in addition to, not to the detriment of, discussions of south america ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Football
  • The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer
  • Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life
  • Calcio: A History of Italian Football
  • Morbo: The story of spanish football
  • Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power
  • Tor!: The Story of German Football
  • A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character . . . and Goals!
  • The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime
  • The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy
  • The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong
  • Soccer in Sun and Shadow
  • The Italian Job: A Journey to the Heart of Two Great Footballing Cultures
  • Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough
  • Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer
  • A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke
  • The Damned Utd
  • Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's Forgotten Game
Jonathan Wilson is a British sports journalist and author who writes for a number of publications including the Guardian, the Independent and Sports Illustrated. He also appears on the Guardian football podcast, Football Weekly.
More about Jonathan Wilson...
Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football The Outsider: A History of the Goalkeeper Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You The Anatomy Of England: A History In Ten Matches The Blizzard: Issue 4

Share This Book

“Anti-intellectualism is one thing, but faith in wrongheaded pseudointellectualism is far worse.” 3 likes
“Many before have hailed the end of history; none have ever been right.” 0 likes
More quotes…