Air Force Blue

Air Force Blue examines the role played by the RAF during World War II. The state of the RAF prior to the outbreak of war is looked at and how the RAF was able to develop. Fighter Command and it’s role in preventing invasion along with Bomber Command and it’s role in attacking Germany are looked at. There is also a chapter on Coastal Command, who tend to get overlooked in favour of Fighter and Bomber Command.

The books is an excellent overview of how air power was key to victory in World War II and the role played by the RAF in achieving this. A very good book for anyone with an interest in World War II.

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The Mixer

The Mixer looks at the history of the Premier League through tactics. The start of the Premier League saw teams almost exclusively play 4-4-2. This has developed as the league has welcomed overseas players and managers and pitches have improved.

The first tactical change I can remember (and that we talked about at primary school) was playing a 3-5-2 with wing backs. At the time, we were amazed that a formation other than 4-4-2 could be used and, coupled with a good Aston Villa team at the time, were convinced it was the way forward. It certainly made an impact on me and for a long time on Championship Manager/Football Manager, 3-5-2 was my default formation as I like the idea of having three centre backs and an extra man in the middle of the park. Anyway, back to the book…

Although the book is taking a look at the evolution of tactics, it does not get heavily involved in comparing the relative advantages of different tactics against other line-ups. The book also looks at the role of particular notable players and how that has allowed a formation to work (e.g. the role of Cantona in playing between the lines and the ‘Makelele’ position).

The book also has some interesting stories within in it, some of which are entertaining. Unsurprisingly, the stories involving Keegan’s time at Newcastle were particularly entertaining and had me laughing several times.

The Mixer is a football book. And it is a good football book. But more importantly, it’s a good book and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I am sure I will return to it and look forward to seeing how tactics continue to develop in the Premier League (and beyond).

Rating (out of 5): *****

Playing Truant

Playing Truant has five members of a mortgage foreclosure team attending a conference when one of them decides he doesn’t want to go into the meeting. It’s his hometown and three other members of the team join him in visiting some old haunts, whilst the team leader remains. The team finally return and the reaction is not what they expected.

The book takes place over a short period of time. It aims to focus on a real life situation and achieves this, not relying on over the top action or exaggerated situations. Whilst a strength of the book, it also leaves you wanting something else to happen.

Rating (out of 5): ***

The War of the Roses

The War of the Roses charts the history of the struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster. The book keeps events moving, but provides all the important information for the key events. The biggest battles receive their own chapters, whilst events between them look at the politics of the time. An interesting book (I’ve read relatively little about the War of the Roses), but Edgar’s writing style is different to usual conventions; for example, instead of Henry V being written like that, he would be referred to as the fifth Henry. A minor quibble for a very good overview of an important era for English history.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Foggy’s Blog

Morton Astley Fogarty (Foggy) is blogging about his life. He lives at home, works in an insurance call centre and is involved in an amateur dramatic production of Grease. However, in all aspects, he’s out of his depth. Despite being out of his depth, he’s blissfully unaware and looks for the best in everyone and everything. This results in plenty of mis-understandings, the highlight being when Foggy is called in for a disciplinary meeting at work. Foggy is a lovable character and it’s a short, amusing book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game is subtitled Why everything you know about football is wrong. It looks to use statistics to disprove some things that we all ‘know’ about football. It also looks to draw attention to the key parts of the game that were unknown until statistics have started being used.

Statistics have been widely used in baseball to help teams improve and other sports are trying to use them to help their performances. Anderson and Sally make it clear that there is already a wide availability of statistics in football, but they are meaningless without analysis. This is an area that clubs are still struggling to get to grips with, as failing in the ‘proper way’ would draw less condemnation than by failing (if it were to happen) through the use of analysed statistics.

Anderson and Sally look to analyse some common statistics and also answer questions such as whether scoring a goal is better than preventing one, if corners should be as celebrated as they are and when substitutions should be made if a team is losing. An enjoyable and thought-provoking book throughout and there’s a couple of things that I may look to try in my Football Manager save; it’s also given me a tip for the next World Cup Final.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Inverting the pyramid: the history of football tactics

The evolution of football formations and tactics is examined in Inverting the pyramid. The book starts with the first formation of 2-3-5 and how this has progressed over the years to new formations. For much of history, most teams have played the same formation or a variation of the formation. As well as formations, tactics are also looked at as managers have looked to get the best out of the players they have at their disposal. In most cases, the initial success of a new formation and tactic has brought some early success before other teams have copied it.

Wilson argues that new tactics and formations brought success as others were not aware of them. With the amount of football available to watch and all the video analysis that there is, it becomes more difficult for revolutionary new tactics to be introduced and certainly not as a surprise to opponents. How will the game develop further? That is the unknown question.

Rating (out of 5): *****