The Amazon documentary, All or Nothing, from Manchester City’s 2017/18 record-breaking season promises to be a ‘never seen before.’ It takes us through a nine-month-long journey where City play 57 games across four competitions. With unprecedented access behind the scenes, it pledges to show the ground reality of running one of the world’s wealthiest clubs. But is it what it promises to be, or is it another shot to help the club grow commercially and gain more fans?
The series kicks off with a motivational speech in the dressing room by Pep Guardiola demanding his players to play football with courage. But football and tactics are not all that we see. Providing an insight into the team’s conference halls, rehabilitation centre, kit room, and even the laundry section stand out. The story of the City kit man Brandon Ashton touches the viewers who has been there at the club since he was 16 and how he accompanies Vincent Kompany in the Cryotherapy Chamber to help him prepare for the game. Characters like him are the heart and soul of a dressing room.
Players, coaching staff and fans talk us through the importance of a Manchester Derby win for the Cityzens as it is the biggest game in the blue half of Manchester. But to everyone’s surprise, there is not a single mention of the tunnel bust-up after the derby, which had Manchester United manager then Jose Mourinho covered in milk and blood running down Arteta’s face. There was a heated exchange of words between the sets of players and staff members. It did not stop here; the players threw bottles at each other and almost came to blows before being separated by the security. Missing out on events like this makes you seriously question the documentary on the grounds of accessibility and authenticity. Miguel Delany’s words jump to my mind, “these documentaries are brilliantly made television, but not necessarily brilliant television.”
On the contrary, we see many heart-warming stories, one such being Aguero’s interview where he mentions his son Benjamin who comes to visit him every month for a week. Aguero goes as far as saying he is best mates with Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea. They get along well from their time at Atletico Madrid and spend a lot of time with him as his wife and son live in Argentina. Another instance is when Pep Guardiola asks his players to win the game for their teammate David Silva and his girlfriend Yessica, who has given birth to a premature baby.
The Premier League season is relentless, and the number of injuries keeps mounting for Pep’s side. This forces City to make a move in the January transfer window, giving us an insight into the board room. City loses to arch-rivals United to the signing of Alexis Sanchez. They are priced away for the forward but manage to sign Aymeric Laporte for a reported 57 million pounds, another record signing for City’s defence with just a few hours to go before the transfer window closes.
We see a lot of instances where Pep tears into his players for not being clinical enough in games and asking them to ‘come back to Earth.’ These shots were for the television as City ended the premier league season with 106 goals and lost twice. There are numerous occasions which do give us the same feel. It shows great team spirit but not necessarily what the viewers wanted to see.
In a season where City lost six games across four competitions, winning two cups, the magnitude of the six defeats was enormous, and they didn’t talk much regarding the same. We didn’t see much behind the scenes of these games. Rather more of what would help patronise the existing supporters and gain new fans, like Vincent Kompany talking about how there were no toilet doors or any up-to-date equipment when he came to the club. The new ownership has turned everything around, and City has the best facilities in the world. The captain taking the team for a paintball session or the club owner organising a party for them, a few of many such instances.
To conclude, you feel sorry for the viewers if you are not a City fan who wanted to see more than just a recap of the season with a very controlled behind the scenes. It comes nowhere near the book ‘Pep Confidential- The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola’s First season at Bayern Munich.’ Graham Hunter describes it as access that any journalist would kill for, and after reading it, you cannot think in contrast to his views. Had the timing of the documentary not coincided with such a successful season, do you think the outcome would have been the same?