REVIEW: Inverting The Pyramid: The History Of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson
Inverting The Pyramid: The History Of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson
Published by Orion Books
With the debate about Wenger’s tactics and formations reaching fever pitch ahead of the new season, this book is definitely a good point for you to leap into the history of football’s tactics. To make the claim that you are tracing the history of football tactics is grand indeed. Jonathan Wilson through his blog on The Guardian has proven himself more than up to the task on a weekly basis. To his credit, the high standards set in his weekly column do not drop in a fascinating trawl through the game’s magnificent and monumental history.
Having started from an after dinner debate using the traditional condiments as props, Wilson follows the path of the 1-2-7 from its attacking roots through 2-3-5, WM, 4-2-4, 4-4-2, 3-5-2 to the various loops and circles of the modern day. The diversions into 4-1-4-1, 4-1-3-2 and so on are all given a historical environment, making more sense of their development that the blandness of a chalk or white board can ever convey.
Crossing continents from Europe to South America, a dry subject is given life and a consistent pace that comes from a knowledgeable and well-researched author. My own favourite spell of the football’s history – the Austrian Wunderteam and the Hungarian Aranycsapat – are covered in some depth, their roots in the British pioneers who influenced the key figures are dutifully anotated, the reasons for the premature ends well documented.
Crucially, no-one person, country, club or team is given more credit than they are due. The influence that individuals have over their time duly recorded with all deferrence. Comparing and contrasting the legacies is where Wilson excels, judgements well considered and logical in their conclusions. Catenaccio, with its much misunderstood implementation and legacy, is given the same credit as any outright attacking invention, Herrera no more prominence than Sacchi or Lobanovskiy.
From an Arsenal perspective, Herbert Chapman is given significant recognition over the dominant side of the early 1930s. Even if the creator did not survive to witness all of their glory, the manager’s influence is still felt to this day. W-M was not a universally popular formation with the authorities, a run in with those in power that echoed Chapman’s past, but the success enjoyed using it meant the tactics were replicated around the globe. Even George Graham is given credit for the European campaigns of the mid-90s although intimating that the five man midfield was a short-passing is perhaps stretching the dourness of those cup runs a tad far, irrespective of the glory that followed.
Wilson is correct in his conclusion that the tactical innovations which have had the greatest impact will never be replicated in the game due to the extensive analysis carried out at the major clubs and universities around the world unless the sport changes the number of players. The prevalence of television and video technology means no more surprises can be sprung on an unsuspecting world. A pity but it does have a benefit for the author since this work will no doubt remain the authority on the subject for many years.
Impress your friends with your tactical knowledge by clicking to Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics