Top 5 New Football Titles – August/September 2017

August

Outside the Box: A Statistical Journey through the History of Football by Duncan Alexander (Century) – 10th Aug 2017

As the co-founder of the OptaJoe Twitter account, Alexander has the best football data at his fingertips. So, he’s perfectly placed to tell the story of the first 25 years of the Premier League through facts and figures. If OptaJoe’s Football Yearbook 2016 is anything to go by, Outside the Box should make fascinating reading.

Outside the Box

Keegan & Dalglish by Richard T. Kelly (Simon & Schuster) – 10th Aug 2017

In 1977, Kenny Dalglish became Liverpool’s replacement for Germany-bound Kevin Keegan. Despite never actually playing together, these two British football legends have been intricately linked throughout their careers as players and managers. Kelly is best known for his novels but this looks like a fascinating joint biography.

Keegan & Dalglish

The Billionaires Club: The unstoppable rise of football’s super-rich owners by James Montague (Bloomsbury) – 24th Aug 2017

Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders was named Football Book of the Year at the 2015 Cross British Sports Book Awards. Two years on, Montague is back with a book about the super-rich owners of the football clubs we love. The Billionaires Club is more travel football investigative journalism from the man who invented the genre.

Billionaires Club.jpg

September

On The Brink: A Journey Through English Football’s North West by Simon Hughes (De Coubertin Books) – 7th Sept 2017

Hughes is one of the most prolific and insightful football writers around, so this book comes with a quality guarantee. On The Brink is his personal and geographical journey through England’s most successful football region and its characters, places and changes. Think Michael Walker’s brilliant Up There, but for the North West rather than East.

 On The Brink

Hijacking Laliga: How Atletico Madrid Broke Barcelona and Real Madrid’s Duopoloy on Spanish Football by Euan McTear (Pitch Publishing) – 22nd Sept 2017

McTear’s first book, Eibar the Brave: The Extraordinary Rise of la Liga’s Smallest Team, came out in 2015. For his second, he looks at a success story on a bigger, European scale. This is the story of Atlético Madrid’s unbelievable rise from mid-table mediocrity to La Liga champions and Champions League finalists.

Hijacking La Liga

Diego Costa: The Art of War

Diego Costa: The Art of War

By Fran Guillén

Arena Sport/BackPage Press, 2015

51MRXQMm0eLIn my experience, football biographies can be even more disappointing than the autobiographies. After all, there is a higher level of expectation; these are books authored by chosen experts, rather than reluctant writers. At one end of the quality spectrum you have the unofficial biographies scrabbled together for the man of the moment; at the other, you have the insightful, often academic work of David Winner, Jonathan Wilson and Philippe Auclair. So where does Fran Guillén’s Diego Costa: The Art of War sit on this scale?

The answer, I believe, is slap bang in the middle, even though it has one of the best football book covers of all time. Over 200 pages, Guillén does a very good job of masking the fact that his book contains no original interviews with Chelsea’s star striker. Existing Costa quotes are scattered throughout but the focus is much more on the words of the people around him. Thanks to his strong Spanish media connections, Guillén brings together an impressive array of ex-teammates, opponents and coaches. The star is Jesús García Pitarch, the former Atlético Madrid Director of Football who bought Costa from Braga in Portugal.

With Pitarch’s voice leading the narration, the book offers a strong analysis of the early years, particularly for English football fans who missed Costa’s coming of age. Pranks, parties, tantrums, scraps – these are the common threads during loan spells at Celta Vigo, Albacete, Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano. As Pitarch neatly summarises, Costa ‘had never been in an organised team and had no experience of the dressing room, of being part of a team. He lacked any sense of discipline, of belonging to a club. He was already 15 or 16 before his football took off.’

This unfettered background, once tamed somewhat by maturity, is key to creating the beast that Chelsea fans now know and love. Costa remains the man-child, the ‘clown prince’, but he has honed his greatest skills – the positioning, the shooting, the mind games. José Antonio Martín Otín wins the award for the book’s best quote: ‘He’s like your typical Sunday-morning footballer who turns up with three aims: he wants a game, he wants to score and he wants a bit of a fight.’

Typically, however, insight seems to run thin just as fame appears on the horizon. With the exception of the chapter on Costa’s decision to play for Spain and the 2014 World Cup, the second half of the book lapses into match-by-match reporting. Title-winning seasons at Atlético and Chelsea come and go without anyone delving below the surface. The book’s title becomes increasingly problematic with each irrelevant Sun Tzu extract. Where is the tactical detail, the information on the ‘art’ of the striker’s war? Paulo Assunçao reveals that Ronaldo is Costa’s idol, but sadly this is a passing remark rather than a probing inroad.

Ultimately, Diego Costa: The Art of War is an up-to-date and entertaining look at one of modern football’s greatest characters. New season, old hamstring injury but Costa remains integral to Jose Mourinho’s plans. And perhaps there is no greater depth to reveal about the Chelsea striker. With a game built around raw aggression and power, simplicity often seems his greatest asset.

Buy it here