Amazon Prime’s ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ premiered on Wednesday night at the Printworks cinema in Manchester. For those who are unaware, the docuseries is a new fly-on-the-wall eight episode special charting the historic campaign that saw Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City smash records that have stood for decades.
Gabby Logan welcomed the lucky, excited crowd at the premiere, as she interviewed club captain Vincent Kompany about the new series. Kompany spoke on behalf of the whole team, saying how happy he is that this series will give memories to hold on to and cherish, as well as proof for his children and grandchildren of how special 2017/18 really was.
I was in attendance at the Premiere and after the excitement of watching the opening episode was able to record a few of my thoughts and personal highlights of the show, without giving too much away for those who don’t want their viewing to be ruined.
When rumours started around this time last summer that Amazon were going to be filming for said series, I was a little excited, yet had no massive realistic hopes for it. I’ve seen similar docuseries’ before that give a good insight, but tend to be a bit boring, such as previous attempts at Liverpool and also Manchester City, the year after the takeover.
I was wrong. If the opening episode is anything to go by, it is revolutionary, giving the most in depth look into the behind the scenes day-to-day activities of a Premier League club. In a time where football fans feel as distant as ever from their clubs and players, All or Nothing brings it back to life, making the viewer feel like they know the players and staff personally, and know their way around the whole training facilities.
Vincent Kompany joked that if the production team shot the documentary in the previous season (16/17), there would be ‘less than five’ people in attendance at the Premiere.
Although I’m sure it would have still been a packed auditorium filled with excitement for the unique insight into Manchester City, Vinnie was kind of right. It would’ve been great, but the fact it was last season makes it so much better.
In one of the trailers, Kevin De Bruyne was asked to describe his manager Pep Guardiola. In one word, the Belgian star utterly said: “detail”.
Detail is also the best single word to describe the documentary: it is about the fine details that us as fans don’t get to see – a glance at the inner workings of a super club.
To see first hand into the mind of Guardiola and his coaching team, to witness the unseen reactions to some of the defining moments of last season, to get a look at some of the behind the scenes stuff such as the players bonding on the training campus – the fact it was the record breaking season made it all that bit sweeter.
Obviously, playing the lead role was a certain Pep Guardiola. If you have watched the trailers or walked around Manchester and seen the billboards, you will know he is a very animated character, so as long as you know that, there are no spoilers to follow.
“I am going to tell you something that is absolutely true: I don’t have all the answers. Often, when I don’t know something, I act in front of the players as if I do”.
Guardiola hammered home this truth in the first few minutes of the opening episode, which set the scene and tone for the rest of the series to come: he is the father figure of all the players, but also a friend, brother, teacher and sometimes a student, forever adapting and learning.
I’m sure if you are a fan of a football club you will wonder what happens in the hours leading up to and after a big match. Watch this documentary and you will know.
When I said Guardiola adopts the role of teacher, I meant it literally. A couple of days prior to a match, he would sit the players down in a lecture theatre which he stands at the front with a tactics board and some pens.
Kyle Walker would often sit with a cup of coffee watching Pep’s every word leave his mouth like the clever kids on the first day back at school, whilst Sergio Aguero seemed to mentally detach himself from the room as soon as the words “when the opposition attack…” left Pep’s mouth.
Without going into too much detail, the game the squad were preparing for were the home fixture with Liverpool in September.
“Guys, I am going to show how Liverpool will attack, with Salah and Mané”, Pep said.
The master manager laid down his masterplan to stop Salah and Mané, which I won’t spoil. I will spoil the fact that the plan worked. On the day, as we know, City won with flying colours in a result which paved the way for a breathtaking run of wins that virtually won City the title.
Pep also swears… a lot.
I could ramble on forever about some of Pep’s rants pre and post match but the only observation I will leave you with is: he may be the manager, but in that dressing room he acts like a player. If the squad play well, he will celebrate with them as if he was a young kid, embracing every man in the dressing room from the winning goal scorer to the kit man.
But this documentary is not just highlights of matches from different angles, then a bit of celebrating in the tunnel, it goes far beyond that. It shows the ground staff who open the ground at 7am on match day, the day to day running of the training complex, as well as unique insights into board meetings.
For example, a lot of the first episode shows Benjamin Mendy’s arrival into Manchester and his subsequent ligament injury.
Sir Ben Kingsley, who is the narrator, seemed a big fan of the powerful French left back, as he set the narrative of the disaster that could have been when Mendy suffered the injury.
The players all raved about Mendy’s character, whilst he told the interviewer a story of a conversation he had with Guardiola on just his second day, in which he jokes that City is his squad and he will look after them.
Obviously, after just one month of the season, Mendy suffered a season threatening injury against Crystal Palace. The camera had unique, never seen before footage following Mendy’s journey to the specialist in Barcelona the next day.
The infamous Dr Ramon Cugat met Mendy and discussed his injury, whilst the camera panned in on Mendy’s face, where his expression lay absent.
This set the scene to meet the recovery staff, who will play a pivotal part of the series, as we get to be on the fly of the wall of the recovery rooms, including a ‘freeze chamber’ of -130 degrees, which is designed to help swelling and other impact injuries.
As you can imagine, the production team probably could take a back seat role in filming scenes of Mendy’s recovery, as it became more of a personal vlog of Mendy doing pieces to camera. They had footage of Mendy in his hospital bed as he watched games and had video calls with various City players, which I won’t spoil any further.
We got to see footage in boardroom esque settings, in which Txiki Begiristain, Khaldoon Al Mubarak and CEO Omar Berrada sat around a table identifying transfer targets and how the injury to Mendy impacted the thought processes of the City hierarchy.
Whilst Benjamin Mendy will proclaim himself the charismatic star of the show, the award has to go elsewhere: Brandon Ashton. Who?
Brandon Ashton is the kit man who joined the club at age sixteen, straight out of school, originally as a spare pair of hands for legendary club kit man, Les Chapman, or ‘Chappy’.
Ashton isn’t a qualified coach and probably knew very little about working in a professional club when he took the job in 2009, but now, he is the glue that brings together the players and the outside world.
We all know about some of the dressing room celebrations, so it is no surprise that there is footage of the players singing and dancing after big wins, but the surprising aspect that it is often Brandon Ashton at the centre of these joyous moments, sometimes stood on the medical table leading the chants of various City players, as if he was a fan in the pub after the match.
That last sentence is crucial: Ashton is a fan. He is living his dream working with the players, but he is absolutely vital to the team spirit. He is best mates with some of the players and some admit they often go to him just for a chat about things non football.
These sorts of chats about everything in the world, not just City, are one of my personal favourite things of the documentary: at the end of the day, the players are humans.
From the outside, it is hard to face that fact. We only know the players from what we see on the TV, with their interviews after games the only real chance to hear their thoughts, but even then they are briefed by press officers to say the same old generic stuff such as: “I’m just happy for the team, it’s just another three points but now we focus on next weekend”.
All or Nothing goes much beyond that and we see the raw emotions of the players, getting a first hand look into their every day life and stuff that is not shown on the broadcasts of games.
It gives football fans a unique understanding of the club, but also gives City fans in particular the feeling that they are part of something special.
From just the first episode, I feel like I have learnt a lot about the players and no longer see them as players, but people. The 25-man squad has an inseparable bond, with Guardiola at the helm as the father figure, but also a best mate to the players.
Overall, All or Nothing is a must watch for any fan of football.