Fiction is fascinating, but it never holds a feather to the real thing. With a new season of Apple’s Emmy-winning megahit Ted Lasso on our screens, LAMag decided it’s time we Yanks learn the real stories behind the characters and situations that make up the Lassoverse; while the show’s clever writers arrange the mechanics of British footie all quite nicely, plenty of these storylines are plucked from the real-life people and drama of the U.K.’s football leagues.
[No spoilers this week]
Early in this week’s episode, we find the Greyhound coaches in Ted’s office, tinkering with formations… again. After Nate’s successful false nine experiment and subsequent poaching at the hands of bitter rivals West Ham, the show has leaned a bit more into the notion of tactics.
Zava’s willingness (or lack thereof) to accommodate Richmond’s usual formation, combined with feelings of inferiority among the team’s coaching staff, has given rise to more than one scene of coaches Beard and Kent staring deeply into their tactical whiteboard with longing, wishing for a winning formation to appear.
In this week’s tactical session, Coach Beard looks elsewhere for help, and for a brief moment, savvy viewers will catch him holding Jonathan Wilson’s foundational book on tactics, Inverting the Pyramid.
This Easter egg, along with journalist Trent Crimm’s presence inside the halls of The Dog Track, makes for a rather literary episode of Lasso. Football being the romantic sport it is, much ink has been spilled dissecting and depicting the game and its beauty. So today, we explore two books that could have inspired these Ted Lasso moments.
Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson
Honestly, Coach Beard should have read Inverting the Pyramid before season 1. Sorry, not sorry.
A detailed history of football tactics, Inverting the Pyramid takes readers around the world and across styles and philosophies. In his book, Wilson shows how the same formation can be used to attack or defend and how some strategies travel around the world.
Had Beard read the book before taking the job at Richmond, he might have learned about Nate’s false nine—a tactic most recently championed by Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola when he was at Barcelona. It appears in chapter 20 of the book.
Inverting the Pyramid is a must for any fan of football—even if just to understand what’s happening on the TV every weekend.
Eibar the Brave by Euan McTear
Trent Crimm’s request to embed himself at Richmond for a season brought to mind a number of successful documentaries and books. In recent years, Amazon has embedded videographers to make season-long documentaries on football teams for the series All or Nothing. Similarly, American fans will fondly look to FX and Hulu’s Welcome to Wrexham, a documentary of Americans Rob Mcelhenney and Ryan Reynolds’ purchase of the Welsh club Wrexham FC and their subsequent quest to ascend the footballing pyramid.
When it comes to books, though, Euan McTear’s Eibar the Brave is a personal favorite. A tiny Basque club with room for just 5,000 fans in their stadium, Eibar made a Cinderella appearance in La Liga, Spain’s top footballing division. McTear spent the 2014-15 season with the club, their first-ever stretch in Spain’s top flight, and in the text, he takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions, not unlike the one we all rode on Ted Lasso’s first season. The fight to avoid relegation and enjoy the magic of La Liga pretty much make the book required reading for any die-hard fan of football.
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