Prime Time: Amazon’s portrayal of the centurions

In this day and age, Amazon’s recent release as a fly-on-the-wall series inside Manchester City’s inner workings was likely to be considered ground-breaking and insightful. For a team such as Manchester City to give such a level of access, and in the year they smashed Premier League records no less adds an extra dimension to the documentary series. For all the Guardiolistas such as myself out there and even non Guardiolistas, it was always going to prove extremely popular. 

Given the environment in top-level football and the secrecy surrounding the top clubs, it is a huge coup for Amazon to get unfettered access into Guardiola’s workings. More than anything, in an age where other clubs seem to be closing themselves off to the public and operating behind closed doors, it is refreshing to see such a range of material available to absorb for aspirational coaches and managers. For the next generation of coaches and managers, I cannot think of a better way of learning more about the game, improving and deepening their knowledge of the game and tactics. Likewise, it is extremely refreshing to see a manager of this calibre so open, and willing to provide material to inspire others, especially one at the top of his profession such as Guardiola.

Throughout the series you see how he genuinely wants to be the best, and that other managers challenging him can only make him a better manager. It also surely represents a risk for City and Guardiola though, given that the whole league will be looking to outsmart the Catalan genius. To provide them with 7 hours of film with the inner workings from a side which is currently still evolving is brave if nothing else. At various points within the documentary, there are snippets from training sessions where Guardiola is giving one on one tuition to various players as to where he feels they can improve, or what he’d like to see them doing going forwards. Add into this mix, the various short videos of tactical briefings and how they will look to exploit opponents, and if you’re due to face Manchester City any time soon, it’s surely a resource you’d draw on to combat their attacking juggernaut. Evidently, they will not be using all the same tactics as last season, but you would imagine that some of them will remain constant for the upcoming season.

In terms of the visual element of the documentary series, some of the access levels are unprecedented in elite football. Other documentaries have been released with behind the scenes footage, such as Netflix’s First Team: Juventus and one from Liverpool shortly after Fenway Sports Group took the club over, but these tend to centre on the players themselves rather than featuring in depth clips from training, team preparation meetings and the dressing room on matchday, which feature on a regular basis in All or Nothing. Providing behind the scenes access however is nothing new to one of Guardiola’s football clubs. During his time in Munich, Catalan Journalist Martí Perarnau was given all areas access for the entire first season on the proviso that nothing was published until the season had finished, much like All or Nothing but confined to print rather than camera. For those who haven’t read the books (Pep Confidental and Pep Guardiola: The Evolution, the latter dealing with closer to the end of his time in the Bavarian capital), they’re an exceptional insight into the workings of Bayern Munich during Guardiola’s tenure and more specifically his training methods and attention to detail when preparing a team.

All or Nothing also provides valuable insight into Manchester City as a whole, from the tea ladies to the first team coaches and everything in between. When the term ‘team morale’ is bandied around, it is often wrongly assumed that it is just the squad of players themselves, whereas the series goes to show that the players are a group of human beings too. We see various points where kitman Brandon Ashton and star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne are seen joking around with each other whilst often discussing varying subjects away from football, leading De Bruyne to tell the camera how he wants sometimes to talk about general topics rather than just football. We get a glimpse into the turmoil which has faced David Silva in the past year, with all the issues he and his girlfriend have been confronted with regarding their prematurely born son Mateo, Silva searching through his bag as soon as the Carabao Cup final is over to see if there are any updates regarding his young son, and Guardiola’s team talk telling his team to win for Silva and his girlfriend.

We see glimpses from the excellent Benjamin Mendy playing the joker whilst he completes his recovery from a knee ligament injury. We see a snippet of Sergio Agüero speaking about his life in Manchester and how he lives alone without his son who is based in Argentina. We see the whole squad serenading both Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne after both score important winners in the dressing room immediately following the final whistle. We see John Stones and Kyle Walker’s budding bromance throughout many of the clips. The series humanises the City squad and shows how one of the secrets to their success has been for them to foster an exceptionally strong bonds throughout the squads, where there is a sense that everyone is on the same page. No doubt there will have been some scenes of disagreements which have been edited out of the series, but the overarching impression is of a tight knit group of players who will fight tooth and nail for one another. If you haven’t already seen the series, whether you support Manchester City or not, I would highly recommend finding the time to watch the series in full.

By Mark Salkeld with artwork by Daniel Griffin

if you love Daniel’s Pep artwork as much as we do, it is available to buy here along with many more examples of his work.

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