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All or Nothing: Manchester City – Review (Amazon Prime)

All or Nothing: Manchester City (Amazon Prime)

Written by @JamesMartin013

There’s no football of any description – fantasy or otherwise – for at least the next few weeks, which leaves a desperate need for a sports fix. Belarusian league aside, most people are finding the best option to be sports books and documentaries. In the first of a new mini-series, James Martin suggests ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ might not be the answer…

There was much understandable excitement when Amazon Prime promised a behind-the-scenes look at Premier League champions Manchester City, but viewers were instead subjected to an eight-hour PR video.

The unrivalled access proved to be the only real draw of an otherwise drab eight-part series, which left a profound sense of dissatisfaction. While the footage did capture areas not usually open to the public, every shot seemed carefully curated to cultivate an image acceptable to the powers-that-be at The Etihad.

Some of this blandness undoubtedly derived from the relatively routine manner of much of City’s on-pitch success in the 2017/18 season, but even when things went wrong for the super-club the documentary failed to engross.

After the transfer team missed out on top target Virgil van Dijk to rivals Liverpool, the programme cut to the sporting director Txiki Begiristain ‘candidly’ musing that the eventual price paid was far too high to be good business. The episode entitled ‘Welcome to Hell’, dedicated to their Champions League exit at the hands of Klopp’s side, promised more. Even this was used to push the club’s agenda, however, placing huge focus on the bottles thrown at the team bus rather than the ultimate shortcomings on the pitch.

It is an inevitability that behaviours will be to some extent altered when cameras are pointed, but in a world where everyone is used to constant scrutiny it was reasonable to expect that the documentary would at least manage to give a relatively genuine and insightful portrayal of players and staff. Instead, I was constantly half-expecting manager Pep Guardiola to turn to camera, The Office-style, and deliver a well-worn cliché.

That is not to question his managerial talents, which shone through even in the sub-par production, but everybody choosing to watch this would have already been well aware of the gifted personnel lured to Manchester City following the 2008 takeover. The fundamental question about All or Nothing duly remains, even after eight long hours: what was the point?

The answer to that question may well lurk under the tailored veneer, and it is a worryingly insidious one. Miguel Delaney of The Independent has written at length on Manchester City’s so-called ‘sports-washing’. This is defined by Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, as: “wealthy regimes… [using] sport as a means to polish up their own tarnished images.”

Sheikh Mansour, City’s owner, is an Emirati royal prince. Nobody will watch the documentary and instantaneously forget that numerous human rights organisations have roundly condemned the UAE, but that is not the point of sports-washing. Rather the viewers are presented with a team that is forward-thinking in all aspects of its day-to-day running, and over time begin to associate this with Mansour and his family instead of what Human Rights Watch describes as ‘arbitrary detention’ and ‘forcible disappearances’.

The programme even depicts a progressive coach who stands up for political freedoms. Pep Guardiola can be seen wearing a yellow ribbon in protest at the denial of a Catalonian independence referendum – on a subconscious level, those watching start to doubt whether the people from whom he takes his salary can really be that bad when it comes to human rights.

All or Nothing was never going to delve into such waters. This does not automatically make it a failure, and precious few football clubs in the modern game can boast immunity from moral criticism, but soft propaganda rarely makes for enthralling television. There is only so long that viewers can be blinded by the veil being drawn back on the operations of a Premier League club – eventually they will notice that there is precious little substance.

This has only become more obvious in the time since the series was released. It did at least re-emphasise the strong appetite for sports documentaries, and Netflix went on to produce Sunderland ‘Til I Die: this was a truly compelling, raw insight into the heart and soul of a football club. The contrast to All or Nothing could hardly be more stark – true emotions were captured as viewers felt the anguish of Sunderland’s fans and saw it contrasted with the relative indifference of some of the senior professionals.

The unique opportunity to watch John Stones singing Wonderwall just doesn’t quite stack up in comparison.

Review written by James Martin

James is a sports journalist with a focus on football. He began writing for LFC Fans Corner over seven years ago, and has since been featured on the club website and The Independent among others. He graduated from Oxford in 2019, and holds the Gold Standard NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.
His portfolio can be found at http://jamesmartin013.journoportfolio.com

Gameweek 38: And Now, The End is Near

GW38 Preview by @NiallHawthorne

there’s a Preview here somewhere…

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a season that’s full
I’ve endured each and every game week
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had quite a few
But then again, too many to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each captain pick
Each power chip along the season
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I wanted to throttle my motley crew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I stared at my phone, and I did shout
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my weeks of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all, all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a wise way
Oh no, no, not me
I did it my way

For what is man, what has he got?
If not FPL, then he has naught
To play the players he truly rates
And not the players of his best mates
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

And did it my way

Defender: Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City

On the back of four clean sheets, a cheeky assist in GW37 and maximum bonus points for three weeks running, Laporte heads to the Amex to face Brighton & Hove Albion with it all on the line. As a Liverpool fan (I’m now happy to make this stunning revelation to you all) I know how this game will go. Brighton will camp on the edge of their box from minute one, hoping to hold out. Duffy and Dunk will spend 90 minutes flinging their bodies in the way of every one of the 374 shots that will be aimed at Ryan in the game. City will score early, will then keep their foot on the throttle, and will probably score four to secure the title. All the while, Brighton will forget that they too could attack, so Laporte’s average position for his clean sheet will be 5 yards inside the Brighton half. Easy defensive points, innit?

Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Eden Hazard will say farewell to Chelsea this Sunday before he departs for pastures new, and he’s going to want to put on a show. Chelsea are away to Leicester City and I reckon this game could finish 3-3 at least. Brendan Rodgers has a unique relationship with the final day of the season, as he once led Liverpool to a five-goal shellacking at Stoke City. I back Hazard to net and assist and then wave goodbye as he heads off into a new and even more lucrative life.

Forward: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

He’s already scored a league winning goal deep in injury time, and he has 90 full minutes to do the same this weekend. Which he will do. Probably more than once. What a Kun….

Captain: Mo Salah, Liverpool

While Liverpool will end the season empty-handed, Mo Salah will be gunning to retain his Golden Boot award, and a home game to Wolves will offer him the opportunity to do just that. He’ll be fresh from not having faced Barca, and I reckon he’ll notch twice to seal the deal. Unless my Aguero tip turns out to be even more on the money than I fear…

Outsider: Ryan Fredericks, West Ham United

You know that thing a lot of customer service departments do to retain customer loyalty? They treat you shoddily for ages and ages and ages. You feel annoyed, then angry, then hopeless, then angry again, then you’re right on the verge of giving up, and THAT is when someone swoops in, does something they should have done at the very start, but it’s such a bloody relief that you feel happy it’s over, and you forget all about the crap that went before it, and you go on your merry way.

That’s West Ham United, that is. Ropey all season long, but they’ve now won a couple of games on the spin, and their fans will head into the summer feeling chipper and with hope in their hearts.

But who are we to complain? Ryan Fredericks is getting a game, is owned by 0.2% of FPL players, has two clean sheets and a goal in his last two appearances, and is facing a Watford team that will have both eyes on an FA Cup final and are going to dial it in.

Draft: Alexander Mitrovic, Fulham

He’s probably been dumped or traded by anyone who had him, as his recent form has been rank. However, he’s facing his former team, Fulham are showing a bit of form, and you just know how this goes, right?

Right, that’s me done for the season. Thanks to everyone who read this FPL/Brexit/Trump analysis piece each week, and for those who followed me and interacted with me on Twitter. To those of you who didn’t, you’re all miserable ungrateful b*stards.

Have a nice summer!

Niall

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