So, err, it’s been a while since I intended on properly starting this ‘Recommended Reads’ series, and to be honest I practically forgot about it altogether, but after seven long months I’ve finally managed to do it! Oh and, for the record, I promise I didn’t spend all this time reading just this one book. Anyway though, the first one which I wanted to talk about was ‘Pep Confidential’, by the Spanish journalist – and former Olympian – Martí Perarnau.
Written around Pep Guardiola’s first season (2013/14) at Bayern Munich, Perarnau was given exclusive access by the man himself to shadow one of the world’s best football managers throughout the start of his time in charge of one of the world’s biggest football clubs; a pretty impressive and not to be missed combination.
Done on an almost game-by-game basis from the start of their pre-season until their victory in the DFB-Pokal final, the book showcases Guardiola as both a person and a tactician in incredible detail, blending the two together with a multitude of anecdotes to create a very good (though perhaps predominantly tactical) mix for anyone who has an interest in the sport or even coaching itself. It’s particularly interesting on the tactical side though, from my perspective at least, and it gives a real insight into the depths which Guardiola goes to on his tireless pursuit of footballing perfection.
From things like his 15-pass build-up rule to achieve the ‘otherwise impossible’ successful transition between attack and defence, to how he used his full-backs high and inside the pitch in order to achieve superiority in the middle of the field, there’s great detail on the individual and extreme ideas behind the success of his unique team during his first year at Bayern. These are things which can still be seen in his side now, too – as well as a number of the subtle, reactive tweaks he made during games to swing them in his favour.
The personal side of his character away from the public eye is truly fascinating to see as well of course, if that’s what you prefer, and Perarnau paints a great picture of him and how he undertakes an inside journey of learning to balance out his great passion and emotion with the reason and rationality of his obsessively analytical mind; largely achieved as a result of their heavy Champions League exit to Real Madrid.
It’s a brilliant book focused around a brilliant man, to put it simply, and (as the blurb describes it) it’s ‘much more than the story of a season – it is also a lasting portrait of one of the greatest coaches in sport’. I very highly recommend it, even if tactics aren't necessarily your thing: though what are you doing on a website called ‘The Tactics Room’ if they aren't? Of course you can stay if you like, though. And I’ll try and reward you with parts of this series more regularly from now on if you do.