Over the years I’ve devoured plenty of books on the subject of football. And I’ve found several to contain deep insights into the game. I will explain why some of these books are great when I can, but if you can’t wait for my book reports, then feel free to have a look at some of these books.
The Mixer by Michael Cox is one of my favourite books chronicling the development of the English club football game, how it has absorbed some of the influences from the continent and how its managed to maintain some of its unique identity. There is a tonne of good information in this book and it ranks as one of the best books I have read on the subject of English club football
Soccer: Modern Tactics by Alessandro Zauli. When I first received this book, I wasn’t impressed. It was the cover. It remained on my shelf for a week. Bored out of my wits I decided to flick through the pages one fine day and the surprise came. Never judge a book by its cover. This small gem covers interviews with major Italian coaches ranging from little know Ezio Glerean to luminosities like Marcello Lippi and Arrigo Sacchi. Within this book you will find them discussing some of their favourite formations. These include: 442, 433, 4312, 4231, 3421, 3412, 334, and the 343. It’s a simple book with clear explanations and examples. They provide the building blocks for people to go understand some systems.
The book was originally written in Italian, so this is an English translation. There are naturally some translating snafu’s however they aren’t gamebreakers. What I enjoyed was the section with Saccchi which predictably starts with a statement where he says he doesn’t believe in formations and that they should be fluid. It also covers simple examples of how different units in a game should behave during various phases in play.
Outside the Box: Duncan Alexander. This is a book that’s about numbers. It statistically breaks down performances of teams. If you are struggling to come to grips with numbers in the game and fail to understand why certain numbers are more important than others, this is the book to read. Within it you will find the author breaking down performances of some clubs. Why was Arsene’s Wenger’s Arsenal side so poor in the FA Cup. There is also a chapter analysing Lionel Messi, would he have performed just as well had he played for Stoke? It’s a delightful chapter in a book that deals with numbers in an approachable way.
Pep Guardiola : The Evolution by Martí Perarnau This author has published two books on this famous manager. The insight into how he prepares his teams for matches and how he approaches games is helpful. If anyone wants to adapt his strategies to the modern game, you will discover within this book that his methods aren’t new, in fact he has absorbed various approaches and honed them into a unique style.
Pep Confidential by Martí Perarnau When Guardiola left Barcelona, the question on everyone’s mind was whether he would turn Bayern into another Barcelona. Instead when he came to the German club, he insisted that they maintained the identity they had but incorporate certain elements of control. This book deals with his years at Bayern Munich, how he initially struggled, the matches the side played and the background behind their champions league failure. From a tactical point of view its incredibly insightful.
Inverting the Pyramid: Jonathan Wilson This book broadly deals with the tactical evolution of the modern game, it’s a great starting point for you to learn about how football has evolved. However it fails to delve into specifics, occasionally glossing over them. It however remains as an invaluable resource if you want to begin your tactical journey into the beautiful game and there are some chapters in the book that deal with tactical analyses of famous matches that can be very helpful.
Dutch Soccer Secrets: Peter Hyballa Have you ever wondered how so many young Dutch players emerge from a small nation rich with mental and technical skills for the modern game? Well this book explains things like Ajax’s TIPs strategy and SC Heerenveen’s STIM strategies for player development. This is a very good book for anyone who wants a top level understanding of Dutch training.
The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game. This is a wonderfully entertaining look at how some sides approach the modern game and gives an unadulterated look at it. Did you know that Jose Mourinho once employed a Dutch styled interchangeable 334 in a game? This book isn’t a laughing matter, and has some serious information. He explains tactical concepts in a brilliantly simple and direct way and uses actual games to explain them
Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football is another book written by Michael Cox. Followers of his site and the first book will recognise instantly the value this book brings to the discussion of football. He describes the evolution of the game in Europe and once again he places his tactical stamp in the books. This is a must read for those who are really after more to the tactical breakdown of the game
Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning – Guillem Balagu An autobiography that contains a foreword from Sir Alex Ferguson, now that says a lot. If you interested in his influences how he rose through the ranks at Barcelona then this is the book. It covers his growth under Johan Cryuff, it includes analyses of key matches during his tenure including a detailed look at the two champions leagues finals. This is by far my favourite book on the manager because of the wealth of information contained within. It also covers the rivalry with Jose Mourinho.
Brilliant Orange – Harry N Abrahams Read any book about Dutch football, Total football, the philosophy and its influence, and you will often find this book being quoted. There is no chronology. instead it digs deep into the the Dutch soccer mentality. It has some great stories about Ajax and the 1974 and 1984 world cups.
Free resources that can help you out too:
SB Nation has blogs that are very well written
Spielverlagerung.com is another great site
Outside of the Boot is a well written blog with great analysis
Coaches Voice – Don’t listen to me, just go listen to coaches themselves. Interviews with some of the world’s best coaches and tactical breakdowns makes this the ONLY site I head to on youtube.