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Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics Hardcover – September 2, 2008


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Hardcover, September 2, 2008
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752889958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752889955
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There are books about soccer teams and soccer men, soccer nations, the culture of soccer, the business of soccer, and fans of the game. But rarest of all are really cracking books that explore the way the game is played. (And, no, we’re not talking about manuals that show you how to kick the ball.) Wilson, a respected journalist with a half-dozen books to his name, has produced a landmark work that explains what happens on the field and why. Beginning with the earliest days of soccer, he charts first the adoption of rules, then tactics, and the evolution of tactics, with profiles and mentions of the geniuses (Viktor Maslov) and dunderheads (Wing Commander Charles Reep) who stamped their marks on the game. National character plays a role, of course, with chapters devoted to the blood-and-thunder English (“The English Pragmatism”), the defensive-minded Italians (“Catenaccio”), and the share-and-share-alike Dutch (“Total Football”). While a remarkable work of sports scholarship, this isn’t for casual fans, and those who don’t know their 4-4-2 from their 4-2-3-1 will definitely require a less challenging book. --Keir Graff --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

'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

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Good history of the evolution of the game, as well as the great coaches and great players.
Nuge
Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics Anyone who loves the beautiful game should read this book, those obsessed with the sport should read it again.
Kerem Gokmen
The quality of writing is very good, well above the level of the great majority of sports journalism, and Wilson appears to be a very thorough researcher.
R. Albin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Seybold on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Outstanding. The book traces the evolution of soccer tactics throughout the world, with recurring chapters on England, continental Europe, Russia, Brazil, and Argentina. The journey begins in England and Scotland in the 19th century, then expands outward.

Wilson masterfully weaves together the stories of some of the most famous teams, the formation they used, and how they played. He writes with the eye for detail of a historian and the writing skills of a novelist. Social and political tie-ins are noted as well, such as the Central European soccer culture of the 1920s and 30's that had strong Jewish roots, the influence of the Brazilian military government in 1970, and of Dutch liberalism in the late 1960s and 1970s and the great Ajax/Holland side.

The quality of his writing far exceeds the norm for sports journalism, whether he's writing about Hungary in the 1950's, the France of Zidane, or Mourinho's Chelsea.

If you've ever wondered about the subtle differences among different formations, such as 4-3-3 vs. 3-5-2 vs. 4-4-2 vs. 4-2-3-1, and the variations within those formations and why they evolved, or for example the playing style of Argentina in 1978 vs. 1986, this is the place to come.

The book dates to late 2008, and includes insights about the formations and playing style of recent and contemporary sides (Roma, Man U, Chelsea, AC Milan, African Nations Cup 2008).
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is definitely a book for the committed fan but if you are a committed fan, you'll definitely enjoy this book. The quality of writing is very good, well above the level of the great majority of sports journalism, and Wilson appears to be a very thorough researcher. The bibliography is impressive and Wilson deserves credit for grinding through and analyzing a large volume of material, some recondite in the extreme (club histories) and a great deal that must have been rather boring to read (memoirs by famous managers). The result is an interesting, comprehensive history of soccer tactics since the initial development of the game. There are a couple of recurrent themes. Wilson, as befits a Brit, is rather concerned with the state of British football, and the perpetual conservatism of British coaches and managers runs throughout the book. The corollary, the birth of innovation outside Britain outside Britain, even when fathered by expat British coaches, is another theme. Wilson also illustrates well how tactical changes often occurred somewhat in parallel in different countries, an interesting example of convergent evolution. Some changes occur because of rule changes, Herbert Chapman's development of the WM formation with stopper center half being an example. Others arise as logical tactical adaptations, for example, the development of the flat back four or the withdrawn center forward. Some tactical changes are set in train by others. With teams playing a flat back four, traditional wing play became obsolete. Some tactics, like the Swiss precursor to the sweeper, arose because of unique circumstances, in this case, a semi-professional league, and then spread.

There are some real surprises in Wilson's account.
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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful By M. E. Llorens on June 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Amirault on January 6, 2014
Format: Paperback
Serious US fans interested in international soccer/football: buy this book.

A caveat: "Inverting the Pyramid" is not a good place to start your quest if you lack a real commitment to learning the history, culture, personalities, and tactics of the beautiful game, all that has brought us to the 21st century. A basic familiarity with current international club and country football is probably necessary; if you don't know who Pep Guardiola is, or whether Brazil or Italy are more defense-oriented, you'll need easy access to a search engine.

But if you're willing to stop now and then to google "Cruyff" or watch highlights from the 1950 World Cup final, this book is an invaluable resource. Focusing each chapter on a country and era in which a particular tactical form was developed and disseminated, Wilson weaves anecdotes, articles, position diagrams, and much more into a thoughtful exposition of how and why approaches came and went. I was particularly fascinated in the differences in strategy as modernity -- in terms of professional salaries, health and nutrition, Fordist skill-based preparations, and so on -- have been taken up and discarded over the years.

I got this book from a British friend as a gift, and it's transformed my understanding of the sport. It will change yours as well, if you give it a good chance.
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