Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

Inverting the Pyramid is a pioneering soccer book that chronicles the evolution of soccer tactics and the lives of the itinerant coaching geniuses who have spread their distinctive styles across the globe.

Through Jonathan Wilson's brilliant historical detective work we learn how the South Americans shrugged off the British colonial order to add their own finesse to the game; how the Europeans harnessed individual technique and built it into a team structure; how the game once featured five forwards up front, while now a lone striker is not uncommon.

Inverting the Pyramid provides a definitive understanding of the tactical genius of modern-day Barcelona, for the first time showing how their style of play developed from Dutch “Total Football,” which itself was an evolution of the Scottish passing game invented by Queens Park in the 1870s and taken on by Tottenham Hotspur in the 1930s. Inverting the Pyramid has been called the “Big Daddy” (Zonal Marking) of soccer tactics books; it is essential for any coach, fan, player, or fantasy manager of the beautiful game.

Type:Non-Fiction
Category:Soccer, Sports History
Publisher:Nation Books (November 5, 2013)
Language:English
Format:Paperback (464 pages)
Start Date:January 19, 2021
End Date:September 3, 2021
My Rating:6/10

Inverting the Pyramid is an incredibly well researched book. So well researched in fact that at times it felt I was reading actually reading a textbook. The incredible detail in which certain historic games are described is both exhilarating and painfully boring. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the amount of work that much have gone into researching and writing this book. Rather, I think it has shown me that my interests lie primarily in the the present and future of football/soccer and not as much in the past as I had assumed.

Football before the 2000s (and even in the early 2000s to some degree) is a bit of a blurry image for me. I of course am familiar with many of the major highlights that get resurected from time to time (England at the ‘66 World Cup, Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal at the ‘86 World Cup) but most everything else from before the 21st century is effectively nonexistant to me. I realize this is largely on me for not spending time looking into the history of the sport and how we got where we are today. Yet at the same time, I’m not all that interested in putting time into it. I’m happy to watch my favorite teams play on the weekend, talk to friends about recent transfer, and complain about tactical decisions made by coaches like many others around the globe. None of these activities necessarily require a solid understanding of the sport from 20+ years ago for me to enjoy. And that’s why I watch football: because I enjoy it.

To summarize, I recognize that Interting the Pyramid is both thorough and well written. However, I have also recognized that this book was not written for me and that large swaths of the its text cover timeframes and topics that I frankly have no interest in learning about. I don’t regret reading it (I rarely do), but I don’t see myself thinking back fondly on it any time soon.