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Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics

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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 and thinkers who shaped the game, and discovers why the English in particular have proved themselves so “unwilling to grapple with the abstract.” This is a modern classic of soccer writing that followers of the game will dip into again and again.

374 pages, Hardcover

First published September 2, 2008

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About the author

Jonathan Wilson

77 books394 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 587 reviews
Profile Image for Santo.
56 reviews23 followers
January 27, 2012
Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand, evaluating on his team’s sound defeat at the hands of FC Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League Final, exclaimed that Barça had played without a forward, thus making life difficult for the Manchester defense.
Indeed, on that glorious evening, Barça played without a recognizable point-man, and yet managed to score 3 goals. Not only that, we had two wing defenders (Alves and Abidal) who spent more time in midfield than in defense; a center back who frequently made vertical, penetrating runs (Pique), and a midfielder who often sat as the last player on the defensive line (Busquets). Of course, most importantly, we managed to make the Red Devils look like a second-tier team, playing a football void of positional discipline.

The Barça attacking force comprised of David Villa, Pedro, Iniesta, Xavi, and the most-awesome Messi. Some would argue that Villa is a forward; but he’s certainly not what comes in mind when we think about the Ibrahimovichs, Shearers, or Drogbas of this world. Messi scores goals by the bunch; but he often is demanded to play the role of creator, usually dissecting the opposing team with blisteringly brave diagonal runs. Pedro is certainly not Bierhoff, Van Basten, or Rush; he’s much shorter, and plays more like a winger. And then, there’s Xavi and Iniesta; definitely not forwards.

It was then – right after reading Ferdinand’s lament – that it struck me. A revelation. Yes, Barça – with its small, fast, and technical midfield-strikers – was not only entertaining to watch, but very potent in real life. But more so, Barça didn’t play with a “true” forward that night because we were playing a new breed of football.

While many like to call Barça’s game as something out of this planet, I’ve come to realize that it is not so. The truth is that the club of my heart is mortal. But mortality has never been the hurdle to progress. Barça is simply at the forefront of this continuum called “football tactics”. Just like Italy’s catenaccio and Ajax’s “total football” in their respective eras, Barça’s play is the new revolution in football tactics. Without wanting to be forcibly humble, Barça simply is the next generation in football.

In his book, “Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics”, Jonathan Wilson confirmed my views. Wilson explained the following about the evolution of football tactics: “As system has replaced individuality, the winger has gone and been reincarnated in a different more complex form; so too, has the playmaker; and so, now, might the striker be refined out of existence. The future, it seems, is universality.” In a world as imagined by Wilson, players will no longer be identified simply as strikers, midfielders, or defensemen; these identifications will be interchangeable, thus making play more fluid. What’s so great about this quote is that Wilson’s book was printed in 2008, a year before Pep Guardiola took over as manager of the Catalan team. What a prophecy!

I’ve always regarded football as something more than just a game. And even if it was truly a game, then it was never just about scoring goals. Football represents the evolution of cultures and the mixing of ideas among great nations. Football is also about the struggle between individuality and the system, between traditions and avant-gardism. Practically, football is about life. And when the final whistle is over, when one talks about the game that has just ended, it’s not only about the score on the newspaper headlines. It’s about the dreams… fulfilled or ended. It’s about passion… won or lost. It’s bigger than the player. Bigger than the club. It’s as big as life itself.

To understand more beyond the score line, it is important to understand the evolution of tactics in the history of this beautiful game. To understand international relations, one would have to read about the theoretical debates between realism and liberalism. To measure the size of energy, one would need to make calculations based on the laws of physics. Well, the same could be said about football.

If you’re happy simply with the sight of an acrobatic goal, then enjoy them. If you prefer to focus on a particular bad call by the referee, than so be it. But for me, football is more than just Maradona-like solo runs or Beckham-like bended free kicks. Football is not only about the player with the ball, but also those who are not, making runs into open space. Football is designing a movement encompassing the whole team, in synch, and with a common purpose. Football is about the bigger picture. And the bigger picture always has some deeper meaning to it. Deeper than the replay of a missed Baggio penalty.

This is when I turn to writings like Wilson’s. This is not the first time, though. There’ve been a number of good books on football that I’ve read. David Winner's Brilliant Orange was a good companion of mine during my short stay in Holland, as I try to understand Dutch culture through its football tactics. Steve Bloomfield's Africa United attempted to explain the lives of people in many different African countries through football. And of course, Phil Ball’s Morbo is a bible to understanding La Liga in Spain, the history, rivalries, and ethnical anecdotes related to it.

“Inverting the Pyramid” is a detailed, comprehensive study of the evolution of football tactics. From the early times of organized matches in England to the Dynamo Kiew scientific approach and the end of the enganche era of players like Riquelme. I learned about the early 2-3-5 formation, which led to the way shirt numberings became (i.e. why a right defender wears #2, and a left winger #11). I learned about the difference between a trequartista (Seedorf) and a regista (Pirlo) in AC Milan’s winning ways. And how a 3-4-2-1 formation (with one less defender) may end up being more defensive than a traditional back four (i.e. 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formations). I also learned about the thoughts of great coaches from Viktor Maslov, to Helenio Herrerra, to Arrigo Sacchi, and Johan Cruyff.

What’s more, I enjoyed immensely Wilson’s analysis of how football tactics evolved in accordance to the different cultures and lifestyles of the football players. The Italian catenaccio evolved during a period of lacking confidence, an Italian society that had lived through invasions after another. As the Italian society dug deep, defended its nation, and waited for the best opportunity to pounce, these sentiments and feelings were transpired into its football tactics.

At the same time, it is no wonder that the free-flowing, bohemian, and democratic play of Ajax’s total football came about at a time when Amsterdam became the hippie capital of the world. Neither is it surprising that the scientific approach of Dynamo Kiev’s legendary coach, Valeriy Lobonovskiy, grew amidst the growth of Kiev as one of the centers of technology and science for the Soviet empire. Nor the reason that many African countries have strong midfielders capable of making vertical runs (think Yaya Toure and Michael Essien) is because football pitches in Africa are mostly long, narrow, clogged by players, and hugged on its sides by a sewer or garbage dump.

I also enjoyed the recurring themes framing football tactics over the years. The debates between the pragmatists – who’d do anything for a win – and the idealists – who only has a beautiful game in his mind, win or lose. As well, the debate between those who favor a system of tactics and those who highlight the individual brilliance of players. How to strike a balance between these extremes to come up with not only the best team, but most importantly, the best-looking team.

To some, this would be observed simply as a matter of the football pitch. But to me, this looks so much like our society. The contests between realists and idealists in international relations. The tensions between individual freedoms and communal responsibility, between democracy and authoritarian efficacy.

In ending his book, Wilson quoted Arrigo Sacchi who said: “As long as humanity exists, something new [football tactics] will come along. Otherwise football dies.” In life, people must progress. We invent new things, come up with new ideas. All for the purpose of survival. Those who can, will proceed. And those who can’t cope with the changes will be left behind, lamenting that the other team “didn’t play with a forward”. The same is for football.

More than a game, football should be seen as a form of art, and football players as artists. The managers, the people with the music sheet, are the music conductor, leading the entire ensemble on a musical journey. Of course, the music written is often colored immensely by the culture, experience, and lives of these musicians, particularly the conductor. Once a while, a violinist or pianist would be asked to rise for a solo, but in the end, those solo occasions are simply parts of the orchestra’s repertoire, a splat of red highlighting the bigger picture. Messi’s runs are magical, but they often don’t stand alone, but as a precursor to a nice pass to Pedro, which often ends with a goal, on the bottom corner of Casillas’ net.

And so, if football is art, and art imitates life. Then, would it mean that football imitates life? I certainly think so.
Profile Image for Issa Deerbany.
374 reviews391 followers
July 8, 2018
كتاب بتحدث عن تطور التكتيك في كرة القدم. فبعد ان كان اللاعب يستحوذ على الكرة ويحاول مراوغة الخصوم للوصول الى المرمى تطور تكتيك التمريرات بين اللاعبين للوصول الى المرمى.

يحاول الكاتب هنا إلقاء الضوء على منتخبات وأندية استخدمت تكتيك معين في فترة ما، هذا التكتيك كان تطورا لتكتيك سابق او رد على تكتيك ناجح.

فكل تكتيك نجح مان وراءه مدرب مفكر . اتيحت له الفرصة لتجربة أفكاره على ارض الملعب ليصبح هذا التكتيك موضة العصر ويحاول المدربون تقليده. وهناك مدربين يطورونه ايضا.

رغم ذلك فهناك نجاحات لفرق عظيمة وقوية سيطرت في فترة ما على كرة القدم سواء على مستوى المنتخبات او الأندية.

لا اعرف سبب تجاهلها من قبل الكاتب. فهو احيانا بتحدث عن مدربين في أوروبا الشرقية حققوا نجاحا لمدة عام او هامين او احيانا فقط على المستوى المحلي. ويتجاهل بعض الفرق التي سيطرت لفترات طويلة.

Profile Image for Ahmed.
742 reviews486 followers
November 16, 2020
تطور تكتيكات كرة القدم منذ أول مباراة دولية بين إنجلترا وإسكتلندا عام 1872
حتى نهائي أمم أفريقيا بين مصر والكاميرون عام 2008 :D
من 2 - 3 -5 إلى 4 - 5 -1
مستعرضا عبر التاريخ أشهر الفرق التى أحدث الفارق بتكتيكاتها المميزة
إبطاليا فيتوريو بوزو في الثلاثينات
المجر الذهبية في عهد بوشكاش وهيديكوتي في الخمسينات
أوستوديانتس دي لابلاتا مع أوزفالدو زوبيلديا في الستينات
الكاتيناتشو الإيطالى مع هيلينيو هريرا في الستنيات أيضا
كرة هولندا الشاملة في عهد رينوس ميتشيل في السبعينات
أرجنتين مينوتي و بيلاردو في السبعينات والتمانينات
الفرق الذهية الثلاثة لفاليري لوبانوفسكي ( دينامو كييف ) في السبيعينات والثمانينات والتسعينات

قرأته بشغف كبير جدا كعاشق حقيقي لكرة القدم وتاريخها
Profile Image for Yara Yu.
522 reviews394 followers
July 11, 2021
جوناثان ويلسون قدم أفضل كتاب كروي علي الإطلاق
شرح لتاريخ تكتيكيات كرة القدم مرورا بالمدارس الكروية وتطور أسلوب اللعب
رحلة ممتعة جدا
Profile Image for James.
20 reviews3 followers
January 7, 2014
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. 1-4-4-1 or 4-5-1). There's much more to it than that, of course.

Of particular contemporary note is the emergence of "pressing" (or "pressurizing, here in the States) as an important tactic. Barcelona's recent successes in both the Champions' League and La Liga can be attributed, in large part, to this tactic, one that doesn't really emerge, according to Wilson, until AC Milan's European Cup winning sides of the late 80s/early 90s.

Also fascinating is his treatment of English soccer. While he doesn't privilege it the way I might, he emphasises how influential the English game has been while, at the same time, being among the most retrograde styles. As a Fulham supporter, I was also amazed to see Roy Hodgson mentioned as a prime mover in the development of Scandinavian football. (Of course, after what he's done for my team, I'm in favour of having him canonised.)

I can't recommend this book highly enough for any reflective fan of soccer/football. You'll be saddened when you get to the coverage of Morinho's 4-5-1 at Chelsea, because you'll know you are up to today.
Profile Image for Russell George.
332 reviews8 followers
July 10, 2016
Most people understand the false number nine, the winger who needs to tuck in when they don’t have possession, or midfielders who sit in front of the back four (or three). And though meeting someone who actively wants to talk tactics can be a nightmare, in about 100 years’ time the English football team will find someone who can pass these insights onto players who understand that the team is ultimately stronger than the individual. What they probably shouldn’t do, though, is give them a copy of this book.

Whilst the overall concept is great – the tactical evolution whereby we went from having more attackers than defenders to vice versa – it’s difficult to illustrate tactics with prose and the occasional diagrams rather than video, particularly when certain patterns of play existed before the author, or in fact television, was born. So, the first few chapters attempt to describe formations from secondary sources. That’s perfectly legitimate, but it’s difficult to actually imagine how games panned out with five forwards and two full backs, and the huge amount of detail Wilson provides seems to swamp an answer to the simpler question that, if attackers outnumbered defenders so easily, and players didn’t switch position, why didn’t every game end 15-15?

After a while, the sheer volume of information means it’s also difficult to keep track of how one formation is radically different from another. Perhaps I’m a bit thick but occasionally, a bit like Joe Hart in a major tournament, I got a little lost. Some of the important issues also seem to be slightly brushed over, for example the fact that pressing your opponent, which seems to have been fundamental to the success of many important teams, seems to have evolved because players became fitter as diets changed and footballers became more professional (or took performance enhancing drugs). But pressing is not strictly a tactical innovation, so perhaps it just didn't fit with the narrative of the book.

Where I felt the book was strongest was in its characterisation of certain managerial philosophies as expressive of wider socio-cultural moments. The Ajax side of the early 70’s, for example, reflecting the radical spirit of the age; or the Soviet club sides who, in a similar vein, illustrated the egalitarian ethos of that society. There is also some wonderful historical detail, particularly around the early 20th century, and English pioneers like Vic Buckingham whose legacy is continued by Pep Guardiola to this day.

Overall I did enjoy this, but I’m not really sure whether I feel I know much more about tactics than I did before I started it. Still, an interesting read.
39 reviews16 followers
November 22, 2010
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 funny. Here comes the "but". Quality really declines toward the end, as if the author was rushing to meet a publishing deadline or simply outsourced the job to a football fan with a bizarre form of Tourrette's that forces him to spout senseless combinations of numbers such as "3-3-3-1, 4-5-1, 3-4-1-2". The next-to-last chapter is completely unreadable. Whereas other chapters developed the story of a single innovator or the situation in a single country, this one just rushed through a myriad of modern formations and discusses sweeping issues such as the disappearance of the playmaker. Another late chapter devotes incomprehensible amounts of space to an obscure polemic between a football statistician and a future England coach. The central narrative is lost completely, which is tied to another central weakness: the lack of occasional paragraphs to sum up the evolution of tactics as the long procession of teams, coaches and players parade through the foreground of the book and just as quickly disappear from view. The title "Inverting the Pyramid" is a brilliant example of this: it sums up an immense amount of information into a neat little compact literary phrase, but that kind of brilliance is somewhat absent from the rest of the book. In short, I enjoyed the book, I learned a lot from it and I will probably return to it frequently after matches, but it really could have used a little more tidying up from an editor (hopefully in a future edition).
Profile Image for Abhinav.
272 reviews249 followers
January 14, 2013
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 who shaped the game, and discovers why the English in particular have proved themselves so "unwilling to grapple with the abstract." This will be a modern classic of soccer writing that followers of the game will dip into again and again.

Review: This is a book for those looking for something far more intellectual than reading one of those footballers’ ghost-written autobiographies that are churned with alarming regularity every year. Jonathan Wilson’s masterpiece of football literature gives us a detailed account of the evolution of tactics and provides valuable insight on how and why some teams have continued to play a certain style of football over decades. A MUST READ for all football fans.
Profile Image for Mahlon.
314 reviews125 followers
January 8, 2014
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 the coaches and teams who used them most successfully.

This book is an essential building block to any fan's soccer knowledge.
Profile Image for Timóteo.
193 reviews10 followers
September 15, 2018
Livro sensacional para quem é curioso e entusiasta com futebol e história. Jonathan Wilson nos conduz maravilhosamente ao longo da história do esporte bretão, as divisões entre as escolas (inglesa, continental, sul-americana) e os aspectos culturais e tecnologicos que permitiram o florescimento de diferentes estilos de jogo, do jogo de condução de bola desenfreada que os primeiros ingleses usavam até o tiki-taka. Certamente irei ler mais livros do autor. Em breve uma resenha mais completa.
Profile Image for Adil.
45 reviews7 followers
July 12, 2018
بالتزامن مع كأس العالم، كان لا بدّ من استكمال جمالية البطولة بقراءة كتاب يؤرخ و بالتفاصيل كل مراحل التطور التكتيكي في كرة القدم، من اللعب العشوائي لـ11 لاعبا كلهم يريد فقط ادخال الكرة للشباك إلى نظام تكتيكي إنظباطي لكل لاعب فيه دور محدد و تمركز مضبوط.
لمحبي التكتيك لا تفوتكم قراءته
Profile Image for Clay Kallam.
835 reviews23 followers
October 29, 2009
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 knowledge for writing purposes -- I loved "The Inverted Pyramid" and I recommend it highly to anyone who wants to understand the game better, and to enjoy it more.

That said, Wilson's narrative veers between chronological and tactical, and sometimes loses the thread of the historical timeline to chase down a change in formation. For one not totally versed in the lore of football, it can get a bit confusing, as do the references to British (and other) football heroes that are at best only a rumor to American readers.

And speaking of America, in the entire book there is not one mention of an American contribution to the game -- and justifiably so. The MSL, the U.S. pro soccer league, is second-rate, and tactically, coaches here have always been behind the curve, at least until lately. It is, however, refreshing to read a book that makes no concessions to this country's inflated sporting ego, and puts the focus where it rightly belongs: On the soccer powers of the rest of the world, and how they got to where they are.

All in all, "Inverting the Pyramid" is an almost perfect book for the audience at which it's aimed (which doesn't happen as often as one might think), and those who are interested in the real football, history and tactics are in for a fascinating read.
Profile Image for Amr Fahmy.
Author 2 books124 followers
November 13, 2014
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 spring surprises at some World Cups like Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. He highlighted France tactics in their way to win Euro 2000 and ignored what happened when the same team with nearly every detail got a first round exit in the World Cup two years later. There are many questions whether if tactics are the main factor of success and whether success can be achieved with the other factors in absence of tactics. Helenio Herrera's sad end with Inter Milano was something similar to that but still this point needed further detailing.
Overall the book is just great, but we, readers, always seek perfection just in the way coaches did.
Profile Image for Toby.
827 reviews325 followers
December 15, 2015
A fascinating look at the evolution of a sport via its visionary tacticians written by a talented sports journalist in a clear and informative manner. I can't understand why the conversation surrounding football and the education of everyone who wants to play it from a young age isn't dominated by an understanding of so vital a part of the gameplay. My appreciation of my actions on field and my love of watching the sport have been greatly enhanced by reading this, what more could you want?
Profile Image for Ipswichblade.
852 reviews15 followers
May 11, 2013
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
Profile Image for Mohamed El-Dhshan.
52 reviews7 followers
November 28, 2015
I really enjoyed reading this book, as a football fan i know that football isn't about tactics only and there's other aspects of the game but still the tactics more important in the long-term.
i think this is the best book about the evolution of football tactics, if you're interested to know how we have our modern football model now, I recommend this book to you.
Profile Image for Walker.
80 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2020
First of all, I highly recommend the hilarious show Ted Lasso on Apple TV. In it, Ted, an American football coach hired as a British football coach, and therefore totally out of his depth, reads this book with his assistant coach as a last ditch effort to understand what British football is. But soccer at the level of deep tactical understanding that this book provides kinda relies on a reading audience that has a strong soccer background. However, for readers with that, this book amazingly lays out the sliding continuum on which tactical formations have come and gone. This book also places those legendary names of players and coaches in football - Beckenbauer, Maradona, Cruyff, Van Gaal, Feola, Chapman, etc - fully in context of location and era in a way I’d never put together. Overall, individual pages of this book can be a slog of names and game scores, but the arc of the book is fantastic and worthwhile.
Profile Image for Brandon.
177 reviews
July 5, 2021
Author's note: Mike Breen "Bang! Bang!" type day. To Calvin, I say 🤗

Review: A historical textbook of the beautiful game's tactics. I have a great respect for the herculean efforts of Wilson and co. to bring this comprehensive work to life, yet I can't deny I often found Inverting the Pyramid a slog to read. You have to come to the table ready to be baptized in the endlessly spiraling and turbulent waters of high-level soccer tacticization.
61 reviews9 followers
November 14, 2009
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 from the rating.

The historical aspect of the book is extremely solid, including numerous interesting anecdotes and reviews of the lives and work of the most influental people in football. However, when it came to explaining how and why the different tactics worked, Wilson was wanting. In most cases his writing gave the impression of someone who knows his subject so well that he has trouble spelling it out to others in a clear and straight-forward manner, leaving me with a vaguely unsatisfied feeling. The book could have clearly used more diagrams showing the dynamics of the formations, as when such were provided, the explanations were powerful and easy to grasp.

As this was essentially a book about the history of the football tactics, this is not a serious flaw. I just would have liked to read more on the subject, as Wilson obviously had more to say.
Profile Image for Gene.
Author 1 book3 followers
November 1, 2017
I wanted to read this book for a while but once I finally got to it I was a bit disappointed. That isn't to say that this isn't a good book or that I would not recommend it to someone, but I personally had a tough time getting through it. I am a big fan of the sport of soccer and have been for my entire life but I found most of this book to be tedious and a dry read. Once the book progressed to the 70's through present I found it more fluid, but that may of course be because the subject matter focused on players and teams that I was more aware of. The problem for me was that most of the book was spent describing tactics (or the lack thereof) in the early days by focusing simply on the coaches and their backgrounds and not really fleshing out the coaching behind a lot of the subtle changes that occurred. Once the book progressed to modern times where tactics have a lot more complexity to it, the book seemed to end suddenly. I do think that it is a worthwhile book, but it certainly missed its mark with me.
Profile Image for Dan.
131 reviews
August 2, 2011
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 rules, the tactics generally have the greatest significance. Sometimes the gaffer has a specific player that requires specific tactics (the skilled athlete determining the strategy), and sometimes the tactics determine the lineup, whichever method is preferable this book provides countless excellent examples of each of those methods (and more) clashing in anywhere from the meaningless to the highest stakes matches. I loved this book, but that's coming from a football aficionado.
Profile Image for Alvin Lo.
101 reviews15 followers
May 31, 2017
When the title is ambiguous, and the sub-title reads "history of women fashion", u expect the book to be more about fashion. Turns out, in this case, it's abt women. It's a book about the history of football, not so much about its tactics.

Expect to read about the change in tactics, preferrably with reasons, but utterly disappointed. Keep telling you about the players playing in xxx match, the scoreline, etc.

Wonder why all the positive reviews & recommendation by "experts"
Profile Image for Mad Hab.
63 reviews5 followers
March 3, 2019
It is a good book. But it is like an encyclopedia. Like you are reading a spreadsheet file. Tons of names, new names every other page. Makes a little boring and hard to read.
Profile Image for Mahmoud Elmorshadi.
36 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2021
كتاب ممل و مش هتعرف تكمله ،
كتاب متخصص وممل حتى لو انت مهتم بكره القدم ،
Profile Image for Swagato Chatterjee.
5 reviews8 followers
July 10, 2020
A vastly informative account on the evolution of football across the world, the book takes you back to late 19th century and then meanders back to present times through the perspectives of different pioneers in football occasionally halting along the way to describe watershed matches and tournaments that have left a lasting impact on the game. It acknowledges the influence of luminaries like Herbert Chapman, Hugo Meisl, Rinus Michels and Valeriy Lobanovskyi among a host of others for the way they became the vanguards of successive revolutions in the game. Jonathan Wilson does a brilliant job in creating a grand narrative that gives us a glimpse into certain legendary players' and managers' lives, tells captivating stories of world cups and championships that have become part of the folklore while shedding light on famous tactics and positions like the Catenacchio, the W-M, libero, fantasists, regista and trequartista that will always remain highlighted in football's history.

Unlike most autobiographies of sports personalities, it is quite unbiased and much more intellectual. Definitely recommended to all football fans.
Profile Image for Amin Hazem.
60 reviews
April 14, 2019
A pretty enjoyable read.
I've wanted to read this book for years, the topic seemed very interesting to me but mainly because I always liked the name tbh.
There're a lot of entertaining stories about how it all started, events behind each development to the game. Besides, it includes some fascinating insight and analysis along the years resulting in what we watch nowadays.
The book -as expected- is very informative, too informative perhaps that I had to stop reading it midway for weeks, having to pause every once in a while to google something annoyed me a bit.
Profile Image for Danny Mason.
179 reviews5 followers
April 22, 2020
This was at its best when it was using the tactical development of the game as a way to tell or retell great stories from football's history. It also does a good job of tying these developments in to wider philosophical, political and societal developments. There were times when it got too into the minutiae and felt like a long list of names and dates that I had no chance of engaging with, but considering the subject matter it's impressive that more of the book wasn't like that and for the most part was enjoyable and readable.
Profile Image for Vilis.
575 reviews87 followers
June 27, 2019
Lai cik ļoti mani interesētu futbols un taktiskā ņemšanās, tās vēsturi šai grāmatai tomēr neizdevās padarīt interesantu. Biju gaidījis ko vairāk par cilvēkiem aiz pārmaiņām un apvērsumiem, bet šeit tie visi saplūda vienotā masā.
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