Author Alejandro Perez has long been an observer of the European club game. Currently he works for Telemundo, the Spanish language right-holders to the World Cup in the U.S., but he is also a long-time blogger and former ESPN employee. He sees the games millions of us watch every weekend and applies a keen strategic eye to what the men on the sideline are doing and why they are doing it.
For this book, Perez takes a number of modern examples of European club managers and breaks down why they have either found success or failed at a position (although, as he shows with Mourinho, both could be an option). The book begins with a more general tactical principle, that many times the best defense is an effective offense. He uses real-life examples of why managers successfully swap attacking players for attacking players late in a game and still hold a lead, when we often think the opposite is true and more defensive minded players are needed to kill a tie. He then goes into famous managers from Europe to explain their tactical mindset at various places, with a special focus on Pep Guardiola’s three stops as a manager.
As someone who fancies himself knowledgeable in tactics, I found some interesting tidbits in these chapters. In particular, Chapter 4 on Manchester City pre-Guardiola and their struggles in the midfield were an interesting look at why a team with so much talent could be inconsistent, and why they now compete in everything with much ease. Despite using the first two chapters to lay the tactical groundwork for the rest of the book, I found the beginning two chapters to be the weakest parts overall. The writing is too choppy to make a smooth read and some of the examples used were not illustrative of the overall plot. The book really finds its footing however in Chapter 3 (entitled “Concerning E(in)volution”) where Perez breaks down the modern Arsene Wenger and tactically why he has failed where he found so much success before. It’s not simply the transfer policy!
This book is not for the new soccer fan, but for the type whose read Jonathan Wilson and enjoys the tactical games managers play with each other and the leagues throughout the season. While the overall book is not as polished as a Wilson book, it is informative and interesting, and is a definite must-read for those fans who enjoying knowing a little bit more of what is going through a famous manager’s mind during a match.