Book Review: Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics (2008)

An earlier book by Jonathan Wilson: a 350-page history of football formations and strategies. It’s a very good read: each chapter covers a phase of development in football history, which in turn focuses on the country or wider area where it happened. For example, after the first 40 years the primitive, direct and physical game of England (and lesser so Scotland) is superseded by the development of stylish team interplay in Central Europe and further afield by individuality in South America. As so on and so on as the game evolves, the formation and pattern of play is modified.

Wilson is very readable. Allowing for the passions invoked by the subject (even at this analytical level), he outlines the tactical development of the game impartially but adds lots of detail, insight and fascinating anecdotal history. My favourite sections were the chapters covering Italian and Argentinean football in the sixties and seventies: pragmatic, often brutal football but strikingly intense personalities! Less colourful but perhaps equally fascinating was the detailing of Maslov and Lobanovskyi’s work at Dinamo Kiev (the latter is perhaps too dry a subject I fear for my taste).

Sometimes as a novice to tactics (even after enjoying the game for 25 years), I could do with some more detail as to the mechanics of each formation; but for its detail and history, and its passion even, this book is excellent.

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