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Investing the pyramid the history of football tactics formations

investing the pyramid the history of football tactics formations

In INVERTING THE PYRAMID, Jonathan Wilson pulls apart the finer details of the world's game, tracing the global history of tactics. The book is an entertaining account of the evolution of football tactics around the world. It starts with the original line-up favoured by England in Inverting The Pyramid is arguably the best Football Tactics book of all time because it chronicles the history of Soccer tactics from. HOW TO SPLIT BITCOIN INTO BITCOIN CASH

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The Evolution of Football - A Brief History of Football Formations - Pyramid, Metodo, W-M and more investing the pyramid the history of football tactics formations


What became apparent in the writing of this book is that every nation came fairly quickly to recognise its strengths, and that no nation seems quite to trust them. Brazilian football is all about flair and improvisation, but it looks yearningly at the defensive organisation of the Italians. Italian football is about cynicism and tactical intelligence, but it admires and fears the physical courage of the English.

English football is about tenacity and energy, but it feels it ought to ape the technique of the Brazilians. The history of tactics, it seems, is the history of two interlinked tensions: aesthetics versus results on the one side and technique versus physique on the other. What confuses the issue is that those who grow up in a technical culture tend to see a more robust approach as a way of getting results, while those from a physical culture see pragmatism in technique; and beauty - or at least what fans prefer to watch - remains very much in the eye of the beholder.

British fans may admire although most seemed not to the cerebral jousting of, say, the Champions League final between AC Milan and Juventus, but what they actually want to see is the crash-bang- wallop of the Premiership. That is not entirely fair, for Premiership football is far more skilful now than it was even ten years ago, but it remains quicker and less possession-driven than any other major league.

As staunchly Anglophile as only an immigrant can be, his work is more of a lament. For them, blaming the unapologetic conservatism of the English game made sense and, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen as part of a more general cultural attack on an establishment that had overseen the end of Empire but was yet to find an appropriate role. Yes, the rest of the world would have caught up at some stage, for, as Glanville wearily notes, pupils have a habit of overcoming their masters, but these masters, through their arrogance and insularity, were complicit in their own downfall.

That, though, was then. In that, by tracing the tactical evolution of the game, it attempts to explain how we got to where we are now, this book belongs to the same family as Soccer Nemesis and Soccer Revolution, but it sets out from a very different present, with England failing to rise rather than falling.

It is, anyway, a history, not a polemic. Hopefully all other terms to designate positions are self-explanatory. Chapter One From Genesis to the Pyramid In the beginning there was chaos, and football was without form. Then came the Victorians, who codified it, and after them the theorists, who analysed it. In its earliest form, though, football knew nothing of such sophistication. Various cultures can point to games that involved kicking a ball, but, for all the claims of Rome , Greece, Egypt, the Caribbean, Mexico, China or Japan to be the home of football, the modern sport has its roots in the mob game of medieval Britain.

Rules - in as much as they existed at all - varied from place to place, but the game essentially involved two teams each trying to force a roughly spherical object to a target at opposite ends of a notional pitch. It was violent, unruly and anarchic, and it was repeatedly outlawed. Only in the early nineteenth century, when the public schools, their thinking shaped by advocates of muscular Christianity, decided that sport could be harnessed for the moral edification of their pupils, did anything approaching what we would today recognise as football emerge.

Before there could be tactics, though, there had, first of all, to be a coherent set of rules. Even by the end of the nineteenth century, when the earliest formations began to emerge, it was rare to subject them to too much thought. The boom came in the early Victorian era and, as David Winner demonstrates in Those Feet, was rooted in the idea - bizarre as it may seem in hindsight - that the Empire was in decline and that moral turpitude was somehow to blame.

Team sports, it was thought, were to be promoted, because they discouraged solipsism, and solipsism allowed masturbation to flourish, and there could be nothing more debilitating than that. Football was seen as the perfect antidote, because, as E. It is so peculiarly and typically British, demanding pluck, coolness and endurance.

Football soared in popularity throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, but in those early days rules varied from school to school, largely according to conditions. At Cheltenham and Rugby, for instance, with their wide, open fields, the game differed little from the mob game. A player could fall on the ground, be fallen upon by a great many of his fellows and emerge from the mud relatively unscathed.

On the cloisters of Charterhouse and Westminster, though, such rough-and-tumble would have led to broken bones, and so it was there that the dribbling game developed. That outlawed - or at least restricted - handling of the ball, but the game still differed radically from modern football.

Formations were unheard of, while the length of the game and even the numbers of players on each side were still to be established. Interplay among forwards, if it happened at all, was rudimentary; and from that sprouted certain fundamentals that would shape the course of early English football: the game was all about dribbling; passing, cooperation and defending were perceived as somehow inferior.

Head-down charging, certainly, was to be preferred to thinking, a manifestation, some would say, of the English attitude to life in general. The differing sets of rules frustrated efforts to establish football at universities until, in , H. Malden of Godalming, Surrey, convened a meeting in his rooms at Cambridge with representatives of Harrow, Eton, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury - and, remarkably, two non-public schoolboys - at which were collated what might be considered the first unified Laws of the Game.

Crucially, a month later, the Football Association was formed, and immediately set about trying to determine a definitive set of Laws of the Game, intending still to combine the best elements of both the dribbling and the handling game.

It failed. The dispute, strangely, was not over the use of the hand, but over hacking - that is, whether kicking opponents in the shins should be allowed. Campbell of Blackheath was very much in favour. A joke it may have been, but that his words were part of a serious debate is indicative of the general ethos, even if Blackheath did end up resigning from the association when hacking was eventually outlawed.

Dribbling itself, it should be said, was rather different to modern conceptions of the art. Tactics - if that is not too grand a word in the circumstances - were similarly basic, even after the number of players had been fixed at eleven. Teams simply chased the ball. If there were a formation at all in those earliest days, it would probably have been classified as two or three backs, with nine or eight forwards. As late as the s, Charles W. That, at least, is how it was in the south.

The north was making its own advances, particularly in south Yorkshire, where a combination of Old Harrovian teachers at Sheffield College and the traditional folk games of Holmfirth and Penistone led to the establishment of the Sheffield Club on 24 October , initially as a way for cricketers to stay fit during the winter. The sport grew rapidly: within five years crowds of several hundred were common, and fifteen clubs had been established in the area.

The Sheffield Club drew up their own set of rules, published in , which, significantly, while showing the influence of Harrow, Rugby and Winchester, made no mention of offside. That, clearly, made passing far more viable, although it is debatable to what extent the opportunities it provided were taken up.

They met for the first time in , with a match between London and Sheffield in Battersea Park on 31 March After much to-ing and fro-ing over whose regulations to play by, Alcock brought a London team to Sheffield in December Playing under Sheffield rules, the home team won , their victory generally being put down to the fact that they had an organised formation. That, taken in conjunction with their more liberal offside law, might suggest a passing game, but it seems Sheffield were rather more rooted in dribbling even than London.

According to Percy M. There would be eighteen further meetings before Sheffield finally came into the FA fold in There may not have been a culture of passing in Sheffield, but it does seem they would punt the ball long to clear their lines. In a pure dribbling game, of course, there would have been no need for the ball ever to leave the ground, other - perhaps - than to lift it over a challenging foot.

Only if the ball were played a significant distance in the air would heading have been necessary. In this manner, long kicking was largely indulged in on Saturday on their side; and in order to meet the same style of play, the Glasgow men actually lost that united action which had led them on to victory in many a harder fought field. The last line was, of course, the goalkeeper, and in front of him was only one full-back, who had again before him but two forwards, to check the rushes of the opposing forwards.

Crucially, they were over a stone per man lighter than England. It is indicative of the physicality of early football that most pundits seemed to have expected that weight advantage would give England a comfortable victory, but what it actually did was to stimulate the imagination. The ploy paid off. England, with a more established tradition and a far larger pool of players from which to select, were firm favourites, but were held to a goalless draw.

The strong point with the home club was that they played excellently well together. In Scotland the ball was there to be kicked, not merely dribbled, as H. In the months leading up to their acceptance into the FA, they played games of ten-, fourteen-, fifteen- and sixteen-a-side, and in , they managed just three games. These essentials struck Mr C. Alcock and in one of his earlier Football Annuals formed the keynote for a eulogium on Scottish players, accompanied by earnest dissertations advocating the immediate adoption by English players of the methods which had brought the game to such a high state of proficiency north of the Tweed.

Passing, he evidently felt, was all very well as an option, but should never be allowed to supplant the dribbling game. They acted as evangelists, travelling across the country to play exhibition games. Records of a match against Vale of Leven, who became one of the early powerhouses of Scottish football, describe the game being stopped at regular intervals so the rules and playing methods could be described, while a game in Edinburgh in kick-started football in the capital.

Both were lieutenants in the army, and both played their club football for the Royal Engineers , carrying the Scottish style with them to Kent. Clegg, a former Sheffield player, wrote in the Sheffield Independent in They crowded round him wherever they went.

So I made Rule 1: Fixed places for all the forwards, with passing the ball from one to the other. Prinsep and E. Dunn that laid in W. Still, the Etonians were essentially a dribbling side. The final flourish of the dribbling game came in For the first time the Cup received more entries from outside London than within, and for the first time the Cup went north as Blackburn Olympic beat Old Etonians in the final.

The amateur era - at least in terms of mindset - was over; something acknowledged two years later when the FA legalised professionalism. All the Olympic side had full-time jobs, and it caused something of a stir when their half-back and de facto manager, Jack Hunter, took them to Blackpool for a training camp before the final. This was very evidently not the effortless superiority to which the amateurs aspired.

The winning goal, scored deep in extra-time, was characteristic of the game as a whole: a cross-field ball from Tommy Dewhurst a weaver on the right found Jimmy Costley a spinner advancing in space on the left, and he had the composure to beat J. Rawlinson in the Etonian goal.

In Scotland, the superiority of passing was old news. Their premises were right, but then they went sadly wrong with the conclusion. They made the grave mistake of dividing themselves instead of their opponents and so paid the penalty. And what a penalty! Tell it not in Gath. Publish it not in Askelon. Strategy can never take the place of eleven good pairs of nimble legs. Nottingham Forest, equally, were enthusiastic advocates of the system by the late s, inspired in their experiments by their captain Sam Widdowson, who also invented the shinpad.

Certainly Wrexham were employing a centre-half when they faced Druids in the Welsh Cup final in ; their captain and full-back Charles Murless, a local estate agent, deciding to withdraw E. Cross from the forward line, seemingly because he felt that the pace of the centre-forward who remained, John Price, was sufficient to cover for any resulting shortfall in attack. He was vindicated as James Davies settled a tight game with the only goal two minutes from time. The gradual spread of the meant that the centre-half soon became the fulcrum of the team, a figure far removed from the dour stopper he would become.

He was a multi-skilled all-rounder, defender and attacker , leader and instigator, goal-scorer and destroyer. There is, though, no other evidence of any side playing with any more than two defenders for another three decades, so it seems probable that what is actually being described is a , with the wing-halves, whose job it would become to pick up the opposing inside-forwards, listed not as halves but as backs. Similarly, Lugar Boswell Thistle, a club from Ayrshire , were deplored for attacking with a mere nine men.

The reactionaries, though, were fighting a losing battle, and it was with a that Dumbarton beat Vale of Leven in the Scottish Cup final in It was the success of Preston North End in the s that confirmed the pre-eminence of the No positions were recorded for that game, but in November the following year, they met Halliwell, with a team listed in the classic that is, with two full- backs, two half-backs, two right-wingers, two left-wingers and two centre- forwards.

Preston joined the Lancashire Football Association for the 81 season and, although they initially struggled, the arrival of a host of Scottish players - professionals in all but name - transformed the club. By the team-sheets were for the first time showing Preston lining up in a system.

It was with that system that Preston went on to win the first two Football League titles, the first of them, in , without losing a game. England played a for the first time against Scotland in and, by October that year, the system was common enough that when Notts County went north for a friendly against Renfrewshire, the Umpire listed their team in formation without comment. The Scotland national side first used a pyramid in , prompting much grumbling about their aping of what was initially an English tactic.

There was money to be made from exporting copper from Chile, guano from Peru, meat, wool and hide from Argentina and Uruguay and coffee from Brazil and Colombia, and there was banking to be done everywhere. They ran their businesses, but they also established newspapers, hospitals, schools and sporting clubs. In Europe , it was a similar story. If there was a British community - whether centred on diplomacy, banking, trade or engineering - football soon followed.

Vienna was the centre of the British presence in central Europe, and football, having initially been played among the staff of the embassy, banks and various trading and engineering companies, soon took hold. Among Czechs, football had to compete with Sokol, a local variant of Turnen, the nationalistic gymnastics popular in Germany, but with increasing numbers of young intellectuals in Prague turning to London and Vienna for guidance, the game soon took root there as well.

The inauguration of Der Challenge Cup in , open to any side from the Habsburg Empire, prompted a further upsurge in interest. Anglophile Danes, Dutch and Swedes were equally quick to adopt the game, Denmark proving good enough to take silver at the Olympics.

There was never any sense, though, of trying to do anything different to the British, whether from a tactical or any other point of view. To look at photographs of Dutch sporting clubs of the late nineteenth century is to look at a pastiche of Victorian Englishness, all drooping moustaches and studied indifference. It was in central Europe and South America, where attitudes to the British were more sceptical, that football began to evolve.

The formation was retained, but shape is only part of the matter; there is also style. Where Britain, despite the acceptance of passing and the spread of 2- , persisted in ruggedness and physicality, others developed subtler forms of the game. What set football in central Europe apart was the speed at which it was taken up by the urban working class.

They were fortunate, also, that it was Scots who made the biggest impression, so ensuring that the focus of the game was on quick, short passing. In Austria, meanwhile, a conscious effort was made to ape the style of the Rangers side that had toured in Born and raised in Burnley in a staunchly Roman Catholic family, in his teens he toyed with the idea of entering the priesthood, but he turned to football and went on to become the most influential coach there has ever been.

He was, by all accounts, a difficult character, haggling repeatedly for better wages and showing a wholly alien devotion to self-improvement. At one point Hogan and his father devised a primitive exercise bike - essentially a bicycle mounted on a rickety wooden stand - on which he would cycle 30 miles a day until he realised that far from making him quicker, he was merely tightening his calf muscles. The ideal of effortless superiority may have belonged to the early amateurs, but it carried over into the professional game.

Training, as such, was frowned upon. Players were expected to run, perhaps even practise their sprints, but ball-work was seen as unnecessary, possibly even deleterious. Give a player a ball during the week, ran the reasoning, and he would not be so hungry for it on a Saturday: a weak metaphor turned into a point of principle. After one match, in which he had dribbled through a number of challenges to create an opportunity only to shoot disappointingly over the bar, Hogan asked his manager, Spen Whittaker, what had gone wrong.

Had the position of his foot been wrong? Had he been off balance? Whittaker was dismissive, telling him just to keep trying, that to score one out of ten was a decent return. Others would have shrugged off the incident but, perfectionist that he was, Hogan dwelt on it. Surely, he thought, such things were not a matter of luck, but depended on technique. It was through my constant delving into matters that I became a coach later in life. It seemed the obvious thing, for I had coached myself as quite a young professional.

Bradshaw had no playing pedigree and was a businessman and administrator rather than a coach, but he had clear ideas on how football should be played. No fan of kick-and-rush, he employed a series of Scottish coaches schooled in the close-passing game, ensured a hefty Scottish representation among the playing staff and left them to get on with it.

The policy was undeniably successful. Hogan helped Fulham to the Southern League championship in both and and, having joined the Second Division of the Football League in , they reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, losing to Newcastle United. He had been struggling for some time with a knee injury and Bradshaw, business head firmly in place, decided that to retain him was an unjustifiable risk. Hogan briefly joined Swindon Town, before representatives of Bolton Wanderers, having waited for him outside church after evensong one Sunday, persuaded him back to the north-west.

His career there was disappointing, ending in relegation, but a pre-season trip to the Netherlands made Hogan aware of the potential of Europe, and the desire of its players to learn. English football may have dismissed coaching as unnecessary, but the Dutch were begging for it.

He also, crucially, became good friends with James Howcroft, an engineer from Redcar who was a leading referee. Howcroft regularly took charge of games overseas and, as a result, knew several foreign administrators. One evening, Howcroft mentioned to Hogan that he had heard that Dordrecht were looking for a new coach, and hoped to employ somebody with an expertise in the British game.

The coincidence was remarkable, and the opportunity not to be missed; Hogan applied, and, at the age of twenty-eight, a year after making his vow, he was back in Holland to fulfil it, accepting a two-year contract. He improved their fitness, certainly, but he believed the key was to develop their ball control. Crucially, because many of them came from the universities, his players were keen to study, and Hogan introduced lessons, explaining in chalk on a blackboard how he thought football should be played.

Tactics and positioning began to be understood and explained not in an ad hoc manner on the pitch, but via diagrams in a classroom. Hogan was successful and popular enough that he was asked to take charge of the Dutch national side for a game against Germany, which they won Still only thirty, though, he felt he had more to give as a player, so, when his contract at Dordrecht was up, he returned to Bolton, who had retained his registration.

He played a season there, helping them to promotion, but his future, he knew, lay in coaching. He began looking for work again in the summer of , and again Howcroft proved instrumental, putting him in touch with the great pioneer of Austrian football, Hugo Meisl. Meisl had been born in the Bohemian city of Maleschau in to a middle-class Jewish family, who moved to Vienna while he was still very young.

He became obsessed by football, and turned out to limited success for the Cricket Club. His father, though, wanted him to go into business, and found him work in Trieste , where he became fluent in Italian and began to pick up other languages. Initially his job was concerned largely with fund-raising, but Meisl, like Hogan an intelligent inside-forward, had firm ideas on how the game should be played and was determined to shape the future of Austrian football.

Slowly, his role expanded until, as the de facto head of the Austrian federation, he gave up banking altogether. In , Austria drew against Hungary in a game refereed by Howcroft. Meisl was frustrated by the outcome, and asked Howcroft where his side was going wrong. Howcroft replied that he thought they needed a proper coach, somebody who could develop their individual technique, somebody, in other words, like his old mate Jimmy Hogan.

Meisl promptly appointed him on a six-week contract, partly to work with leading Austrian clubs, but mainly to prepare the Austria national squad ahead of the Stockholm Olympics. The Austrian players found him difficult to understand, and felt he was focusing rather too much on basics. Meisl, though, was impressed, and he and Hogan talked long into the night about their vision of football.

Tactically, neither saw anything wrong with the - which had, after all, formed the basis of all football for over thirty years - but they believed that movement was necessary, that too many teams were too rigid and so predictable. Both believed that it was necessary to make the ball do the work, that swift combinations of passes were preferable to dribbling, and that individual technique was crucial, not for the slaloming individual runs that would become such a feature of the game in South America, but for the instant control of an incoming pass to allow a swift release.

Hogan was also keen to stress the value of the long pass to unsettle opposing defences, provided it were well-directed and not an aimless upfield punt. Meisl was a romantic, but what is fascinating about Hogan is that his beliefs were, essentially, pragmatic. He was not an evangelist for the passing game through any quixotic notion of what was right; he simply believed that the best way to win matches was to retain possession.

Austria hammered Germany in Stockholm, but went down 4- 3 to Holland in the quarter-finals. Austria warmed to Hogan, and Hogan warmed to Austria. War, though, destroyed that dream. Realising the probability of conflict, Hogan approached the British consul and asked whether it would be advisable to return swiftly with his family to Britain.

He was told there was no imminent danger, but within forty-eight hours, war had been declared. A day later, Hogan was arrested as a foreign national. For almost eighteen months he worked for them, teaching their children how to play tennis, but, miles to the east, moves were afoot to bring him back into football.

Hogan readily accepted. With most of the first team away at the front, his first task was to assemble a squad. Every day after school I had them on the field, instructing them in the art of the game. MTK won the title in , the first official championship after a brief hiatus for the war, and held on to it for nine years.

As the war came to an end, a combined Budapest side gave notice of the growing strength of the continental game by hammering Bolton As soon as he could when the war was over, he left for Britain. Money, though, remained tight, and he was advised to ask for a hand-out from the Football Association, which had established a fund to support professionals financially disadvantaged by the war years.

It proved a watershed in his career. The FA secretary Frederick Wall, though, treated him with disdain. The fund, Wall said, was for those who had fought. Hogan pointed out that he had been interned for four years and so had had no chance to sign up. Hogan was furious, never forgave the FA and his talent - not that his ideas would have been well-received in conservative England anyway - was lost to English football. On a frozen, rutted pitch in Nuremberg, their close-passing game proved impractical, and a despondent Meisl spent the return journey discussing with his players whether they should abandon their approach for something more direct and physical.

Absolutely not, came their response, and so were set in stone the principles from which grew the Wunderteam of the early thirties, the first of the great unfulfilled national sides. Technique was prized over physicality, but was harnessed into a team structure. In South America, the game came to diverge even more sharply from the original model.

Again technique was prized, but in Uruguay and, particularly, Argentina, it was individuality and self-expression that were celebrated. Later that year the Buenos Aires Football Club was founded as an offshoot of the Cricket Club, but the seeds fell on stony ground, and six years later it switched to rugby. He resigned when the school refused to extend its playing fields, and established the English High School in , where he employed a specialist games master to teach football.

Alumni, a team made up of old boys from the English High School, took their place in the first division and came to dominate it in the early part of the twentieth century, while the school team itself played lower down the league pyramid. They were far from the only school to take football seriously, and six of the first seven titles were won by teams based on the prestigious Lomas de Zamora boarding school.

It was a similar story across the River Plate in Uruguay, where young British professionals founded cricket and rowing clubs that developed football sections, and British schools pushed the game. William Leslie Poole, a teacher at the English High School in Montevideo, was the equivalent of Hutton, forming the Albion Cricket Club in May , the football section of which was soon playing football against teams from Buenos Aires.

In those early days, as a quick glance at the team-sheets demonstrates, the players were largely British or Anglo-Argentinian, and so was the ethos. In a game against Estudiantes, Alumni even refused to take a penalty because they believed it had been incorrectly awarded. Gradually, though, the British dominance waned. Uruguayans and Argentinians, uninfected by British ideals of muscular Christianity, had no similar sense of physicality as a virtue in its own right, no similar distrust of cunning.

The shape may have been the same, but the style was as different as it was possible to be. The anthropologist Eduardo Archetti has insisted that, as the influence of Spanish and Italian immigrants began to be felt, power and discipline were rejected in favour of skill and sensuousness - a trend that was felt across a range of disciplines. Dancers drew filigrees on a single floor tile, and football players created their own language in that tiny space where they chose to retain and possess the ball rather than kick it, as if their feet were hands braiding the leather.

On the feet of the first Creole virtuosos, el toque, the touch, was born: the ball was strummed as if it were a guitar, a source of music. That was apparent as early as , when the physicality of Nottingham Forest against a representative XI - made up largely of Anglo-Argentinians - in the sixth game of their tour led to considerable ill-feeling.

Even traditionalists within Argentina were sceptical about the creolisation of the game. It is a game that is more fine, perhaps more artistic, even apparently more intelligent, but it has lost its primitive enthusiasm. Nobody who watched Uruguay in the Olympics could have been so misguided. Argentina chose to stay at home, but Uruguay went to Paris and wrote one of the great stories of early football.

This was, first and foremost, a team of workers, including, among other professions, a meat-packer, a marble-cutter, a grocer and an ice-salesman. They travelled to Europe in steerage, and played to pay for their board, winning nine friendlies in Spain before they even reached France.

Uruguay were the first Latin American side to tour Europe, but they attracted little attention - at least initially - only around 2, turning up to watch them eviscerate Yugoslavia in their opening game in the Olympics. Just us alone in the fields of Uruguay, chasing the leather from the morning to the afternoon and then into the moonlit night.

We played for twenty years to become players, to become what players had to be: absolute masters of the ball … seizing the ball and not letting it go for any reason … It was a wild football, our game. It was an empirical, self-taught, native style of football. They chose to invent a game of close passes directly to the foot, with lightning changes in rhythm and high-speed dribbling. Charles Alcock would scarcely have recognised it, although he would presumably have appreciated the goal-scoring ability of the centre-forward Pedro Petrone , even if he did refuse to head the ball for fear of disturbing his heavily brilliantined hair.

Those who were there, though, were enraptured as Uruguay maintained their form through the competition, scoring a total of seventeen goals and conceding two in their four games before beating Switzerland in the final. The reaction of the French essayist and novelist Henry de Montherlant was typical. They created a beautiful football, elegant but at the same time varied, rapid, powerful and effective. Perhaps, perhaps not; it is impossible to say, but the Buenos Aires side Boca Juniors certainly impressed on a tour of Europe in , losing just three of nineteen games.

Argentina did travel to Amsterdam for the Olympics four years later and, fittingly, met Uruguay in the final, losing after a replay. Two years later, the two sides met again in the first World Cup final, and again Uruguay were triumphant, winning Between the two rioplatense national teams, the ants are the Uruguayans, the cicadas are the Argentinians. It was that, supposedly, that gave a nation with a population of only three million the determination to win two World Cups, and it was also that which gave a tenuous legitimacy to the brutality of later Uruguayan teams.

Weirdly, the former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis also claimed to have invented the bicycle-kick, even though he never played football to any level and was not born until ten years after the first record of Unzaga performing the trick. Who actually invented it is less important in this context than what the arguments show of the value set on imagination around the River Plate estuary in the twenties.

Given the process of creolisation had been going on for at least a decade, though, it seems probable that the tour simply confirmed changes that were already afoot, that in their early stages the Danubian and rioplatense games were similar and almost simultaneous shifts away from the physicality of the British style towards something based more on individual technique.

With the technical experimentation came a willingness to tinker - albeit gently - with tactics. In both Argentina and Uruguay the story is told of a player skipping through the opposition to score a goal of outrageous quality, and then erasing his footsteps in the dust as he returned to his own half so that no one should ever copy his trick.

Mythic, evidently, but indicative of the prevailing system of values, which became even more pronounced as Argentinian football drifted into reclusiveness. Undermined by the emigration of players ahead of the World Cup - there were four Argentinians in the Italy side that won it - they were beaten in the first round by Sweden, and then refused to send a team to France in after their own bid to host the tournament was turned down.

A professional league began in , big stadiums brought big crowds and newspaper and radio coverage both drew off, and fuelled, the nationwide interest in the game. What it describes, though, is the whole early philosophy of Argentinian football, which was founded on the joy of attacking. Between September and April , there was not a single goalless draw in the Argentinian championship. Yet goals were only part of the story.

In its twenty-year cocoon, in a culture obsessed by viveza and with few games against outsiders that might have brought defeat and a tactical rethink, the exuberant style flourished. It might not have been for the long-term good of Argentinian football, but it was fun while it lasted. When the home associations persuaded the international board in to liberalise the offside law, it was to answer the specific issue of a lack of goals.

Notts County had begun the trend, but by then several clubs, most notably Newcastle United with their full-back pairing of Frank Hudspeth and Bill McCracken, had become so adept at setting an offside trap that games would be compressed into a narrow sliver either side of the halfway line.

When Newcastle drew at Bury in February , it came as the final straw. The football was boring, attendances were falling and the FA, for once, not merely recognised that something needed to be done, but set about doing it. The FA came up with two possible solutions - either to require only two players to be in advance of the forward, or to add a line in each half 40 yards from goal behind which a forward could not be offside - and set about testing them in a series of exhibition games, with one half being played under one alternative, and the other under the other.

At a meeting in London in June, the FA decided they preferred the version requiring only two defending players to play a forward onside. The Scottish FA soon adopted the amendment as well, and it was they who presented the proposed rule change to the International Board, the new variant being implemented ahead of the season. Previously a side looking to play the offside trap had been able to retain one full-back as cover as his partner stepped up to try to catch the forward; the new legislation meant that a misjudgement risked leaving the forward through one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

On the face of it, the amendment was an immediate success, with the average number of goals per game shooting up to 3. And that, it is widely held, was what precipitated the decline and increasing negativity of English football. Meisl, it should be said, had been a devout Anglophile even before he fled rising anti-Semitism in Austria to settle in London, and his book reads as a lament for a past he experienced only second-hand and probably idealised. He became a respected figure in sports journalism, writing mainly on English football for foreign publications, but Soccer Revolution, for all its fine phrase-making, is, to modern eyes at least, a strikingly eccentric work.

Perhaps it was, but it was the very thin end of what is now a gargantuan wedge. And here again the divide is reached between those who seek to win, and those who wish simply to play well. It is a simple but unfortunate fact that eventually those who are looking to win games will toy with negativity. After the glorious excesses of la nuestra it came to the Argentinians; and for all the self-conscious aestheticism of the Austrians, it would just have surely have come to them had fascism not got there first.

Golden ages, almost by definition, are past: gleeful naivety never lasts for ever. The most obvious immediate effect of the change in the offside law was that, as forwards had more room in which to move, the game became stretched, and short passing began to give way to longer balls. Some sides adapted better than others, and the beginning of the season was marked by freakish results.

Arsenal, in particular, seemed unable to settle into any pattern of consistency and, after beating Leeds United on 26 September, they were hammered by Newcastle United on 3 October. This Arsenal, he said, was a team without a plan, a team with no chance of winning anything.

He had been born in Kiveton Park, a small colliery town between Sheffield and Worksop and, but for football, he would have followed his father into mining. He was a journeyman player, good enough to stay out of the pits, but little else, and if that part of his career was notable at all, it was for the pale yellow calf-skin boots he wore in the belief they made him easier for team-mates to pick out, an early indication of the inventiveness that would serve him so well as a manager.

His managerial career did not exactly begin with a fanfare. Chapman said that he would be interested, Bull recommended him and Northampton, after failing to attract the former Stoke and Manchester City half-back Sam Ashworth, gave him the job. After a couple of promising early results, though, Northampton faded, and a home defeat to Norwich in November saw them fall to fifth bottom in the Southern League.

He began to encourage his team to drop back, his aim being less to check the opposition forwards than to draw out their defenders and so open up attacking space. By Christmas , Northampton were top of the Southern League; they went on to win the title with a record ninety goals.

Chapman moved on to Leeds City in and, in the two seasons before the First World War, took them from second bottom of Division Two to fourth. He also hit upon one of his most notable innovations, instituting team-talks after watching players arguing passionately over a game of cards. The war interrupted their progress there, but just as damaging to Chapman and the club were accusations that the club had made illegal payments to players. Two years later, though, while he was working for the Olympia oil and cake works in Selby, Chapman was approached by Huddersfield Town to become assistant to their manager Ambrose Langley, who had played alongside his late brother Harry before the war.

Chapman was intrigued and appealed to the FA, noting that he had been away from the club working at the Barnbow arms factory when the supposed illegal payments had been made. The FA showed mercy, Chapman took up the post, and when Langley decided a month later that he would rather be running a pub, he found himself installed as manager.

Clem Stephenson of Aston Villa, he decided, was just the man. Performances and gates improved rapidly while Chapman, always looking at the bigger picture, re- turfed the pitch and renovated the press seats at Leeds Road. In , despite their stuffed donkey mascot catching fire in the celebrations that followed the semi-final victory over Notts County, Huddersfield won the FA Cup, Billy Smith converting a last-minute penalty in the final at Stamford Bridge to see off Preston North End.

The authorities, though, were not impressed. Equally, the deployment of Wilson with a brief, if not to man- mark, then certainly to check Billy Roberts, the opposing centre-forward, suggests that the stopper centre-half was on its way, and may have come into existence even without the change in the offside law.

He was - at least in Britain - the first modern manager, the first man to have complete control over the running of the club, from signings to selection to tactics to arranging for gramophone records to be played over the public-address system to keep the crowd entertained before the game and at half-time.

Do they attach as much importance to the official who will have charge of the player…? It was not, it must be said, obvious. This book is an essential building block to any fan's soccer knowledge. Jan 11, Otis Chandler marked it as to-read.

Will Barnes recommends. Oct 29, Clay Kallam rated it really liked it Shelves: sports. 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 As an American sports fan of a certain age, I understand football tactics. 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. 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.

Oct 15, Amr Fahmy rated it really liked it. Very interesting but still lacked many examples that needed to be highlighted.. I still liked seeing my country Egypt highlighted in the success of the Africa Cup of Nations as a model of going back to a three-man-back line..

The pivotal role of Aboutrika wasn't highlighted either. Still the same for teams that could sp Very interesting but still lacked many examples that needed to be highlighted.. Still the same for teams that could spring surprises at some World Cups like Cameroon in and Senegal in He highlighted France tactics in their way to win Euro 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. 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? 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 After a few recent fairly poor books on football, this has been a delight to read.

It doesn't get bogged down in too much technical info which makes for a great read Nov 01, Mohamed El-Dhshan rated it really liked it. 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. Dec 27, Walker rated it really liked it. 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. 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.

Author's note: Mike Breen "Bang! I have a great respect for the herculean efforts of Wilson and co. You have to come to the table ready to be baptized in the endlessly spiraling and turbulent waters of high-level soccer tacticization. View 1 comment. 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 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.

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. 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 f I wanted to read this book for a while but once I finally got to it I was a bit disappointed.

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. Aug 02, Dan rated it really liked it. 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 Firstly, you must love football. 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.

May 30, Alvin Lo rated it it was ok. 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.

I miss the World Cup already :. Mar 03, Mad Hab rated it liked it. 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. Jul 10, Swagato Chatterjee rated it it was amazing. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a long list, but that should not diminish how vital a role each of the people included in it played. Thanks also to Aliaksiy Zyl and his coterie of Dinamo fans in Minsk for their advice and thanks to Chris Fraser for introducing us. Dima: the polonium night at the Emirates will never be forgotten. Thanks to Gabriele Marcotti for all his assistance with the Italian sections, for being such an informed and robust sounding-board, but most particularly for allowing me finally to participate in one of those restaurant debates in which bowls of hummus, tabouleh and tzatziki become the Udinese defence.

Thanks also to Brian Glanville for his unfailing generosity of spirit and for putting me right on a number of historical matters. Thanks to my agent, David Luxton, and my editor at Orion, Ian Preece, for their unflagging support and helpful interventions, and to the copy-editor, Chris Hawkes, for his diligence. Had player-power, a late-night delegation of midfielders, forced the unexpected reversion to the flat four in midfield? Football is not about players, or at least not just about players; it is about shape and about space, about the intelligent deployment of players, and their movement within that deployment.

The Argentinian was, I hope, exaggerating for effect, for heart, soul, effort, desire, strength, power, speed, passion and skill all play their parts, but, for all that, there is also a theoretical dimension, and, as in other disciplines, the English have, on the whole, proved themselves unwilling to grapple with the abstract.

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My Soccer Library: Inverting the Pyramid

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