Reading the synopsis, what I was expecting was a chronological run-through of the steps that led to the Germans winning the World Cup in 2014.
The steps are probably covered, but the book’s format means it’s hard to pick them out. We jump around the timeline so often I had difficulty keeping track of where we were. Added to that is a lack of detail about much of what was done.
This is intermingled with quotes of criticism from former football greats and newspapers that, while giving context and showing what the agents of change were up against, don’t really add anything.
Large swathes of the book are taken up with blow-by-blow accounts of various matches. Football isn’t enthralling in the form of the written word. I get the impression these were added to help bulk the book up, though some lessons are pulled out of particular plays.
There are some great quotes from the players who took part in the tournaments discussed, which offer some insights about how they felt and how various decisions impacted them, though with little tactical detail.
From what I gleaned:
- It started many years prior with a push to get more professional coaches at grassroots level. This enabled them to find a larger pool of talent to feed into the clubs and to develop players in the provinces.
- The German FA encouraged the clubs to overhaul their youth policy and build academies, while setting rules on the number of international players within them. This helped develop a young talent pool that had been trained the same way.
- They focused on the detail, whether it was improving fitness, set pieces, tactics, hotels, mental conditioning — anything that they thought could give them an edge, nothing was too small.
- Technology was used to help review performance and prepare players, as well as engaging them in tactics.
- Removing the dogma around the importance of ‘great players’ and instead focusing on a great team. Team spirit also came up several times. Not that key players and personalities didn’t prove important.
- Dropping old ideas like sweepers and a defense-first mentality, as well as being flexible about striking options.
- Luck — personnel changes, often enforced, and last-minute tactical decisions proved successful but could have destroyed them.
There may have been others, certainly there was some interesting technology mentioned that I hadn’t seen or heard of before, but which gets only a few paragraphs. It was hard to pull much else out though.
This book needs a good edit to re-order it. Starting with either the appointment of Klinsmann — who seems to have spearheaded some of the changes — or perhaps the win in Brazil, before returning to the years when unsung heroes lobbied the German FA for more grassroots coaching.
Charlie Anson does a good job narrating, even if the pronunciation of some names is a little odd to my (English) ears.
Not a bad book, but chaotically organised.
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Reviewed: 1st August 2017