There is a scene in Amazon Prime’s new eight part documentary series on Manchester City in which they show a room of club officials, including chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, sporting director Txiki Begiristain and director of football Joan Patsy standing alongside Pep Guardiola as he watches a discussion between the BT Sport pundits as they pour over the dominant victory over Spurs and debate his overall impact on the English game. The intensity of the scene is eventually punctured by laughter and pointing towards the manager in focus. It feels like one of those uncomfortable self-congratulatory White House press releases with Donald Trump in The Oval Office surrounded by his cronies – staged and so far removed from what we have been used to for so many years.
The curious difference about this documentary is that there is a distinct lack of jeopardy. It goes without saying that the achievements of Guardiola’s team last season were incredibly impressive. His side played football that was so aesthetically rewarding that it did not even require the dramatic voiceover of Sir Ben Kingsley for it to be appreciated. It’s the slickness off the pitch that provokes a sense of unease.
The production values are very high in the formidable setting of City’s state-of-the-art training complex – dotted with members of staff dressed in “true berry” Nike jackets – even when they are all gathered together it seems it is to perform a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to one of the players or “Campeones Olé Olé Olé.” There is no needle between the manager or the players – even opportunities to show the intricacies of football management on a human level are presented before being dodged with Guardiola telling the players “if you hate me, hate me guys” with no real evidence as to why he challenges them in this way.
In the infamous Being Liverpool, which documented the club’s first season under Brendan Rodgers, the first team talk of the league season is shown before Liverpool are defeated 3-0 at West Brom. It’s the failure and the clash of personalities that makes the build-up so intriguing.
There is an edge to that production whereas in All or Nothing everything is so rosy that the drama seems to be confined to the players wincing as they get to their feet following a tough tackle. That is nothing new in football. It fails to evoke sympathy even if the “Soft Tissue Expert” is shown jogging onto the pitch to tend to the stricken player. The “challenges” that face Mubarak and his advisors as they search for a new centre-back are quickly vanquished by footage of Aymeric Laporte boarding a private jet and then signing his contract with no look into the mechanisms of the transfer.
It is through no fault of the players or the manager that the documentary is devoid of personality or relatable content. It is such a slick and polished exercise in PR that behind the pretence of the “All” the viewer is actually given the “Nothing”.