I’ve got to say it took me a while to get into. The first half of the book is very in depth, and delves right back to the beginning of how football started in the 1850s and you have to get about 100 pages in before it starts to get really interesting with the development of tactics throughout the world in the modern game.
The more I read the more I was hooked though, it includes some excellent pieces around the Dutch system, Italian Catenaccio, the South American attacking midfielder and the modern day 4-5-1/4-3-3
Although Roy Hodgson claims that he’s never told his players what formation to play, all teams have a formation, no matter how fluid it is. He might not need to explicitly say “this week we’re playing 4-4-2 lads” but I’m sure he’ll base his tactics and system around a starting point.
Despite my primary focus being Performance Analysis, any analyst knows how vital it is to have a rounded view of all aspects of football as analysis is one of the fields that integrates with so many different areas. It is important to know the type of formation and tactics that are being used when analysing the game. There is no point berating the attacking midfielder for not getting back and covering the back 4 when a 4-2-3-1 is being played for example.
A couple of chapters of the book I found particularly interesting.
Jonathan talks a lot about Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the great Dynamo Kiev coach who pioneered 3 separate generations of World Class teams. His tactical astuteness and forward thinking in terms of how to get the best out of his players was second to none but what I did find interesting was the following
“Lobanovskyi arrived at Dynamo as part of a team of four. He had specific responsibility for modelling playing systems; Zelentsov was in charge of the individual preparation of players; Bazylevich, having been prised from Shakhtar, took care of the actual coaching; while Mykhaylo Oshemkov dealt with what was known as ‘informational support’ – that is, the collection of statistical data from games”
Another part was around Arrigo Sacchi, the legendary AC Milan and Italy manager and how he turned a very good team into one of the best the world has ever seen. Saachi had never played professionally but had dedicated his life to coaching and was a great innovator. Something aimed at a lot of performance analysts is how can they understand the game when many have never played before. Here is a great piece from Inverting the Pyramid