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All or Nothing: Manchester City reveals the genius of frantic, foul-mouthed Pep Guardiola is all in the detail

The new, Amazon-produced documentary series offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the methods of a fascinating manager

Mark Critchley
Thursday 16 August 2018 19:58 BST
All or Nothing- Manchester City - Trailer

The first episode of All or Nothing: Manchester City opens with an example of what will be the Amazon-produced documentary series’ greatest selling-point - insight into the frantic, fascinating mind of Pep Guardiola.

The scene is set in one of Wembley’s dressing rooms, at half-time during last season’s EFL Cup final, and Guardiola is wild - jumping, running, squatting, waving - spitting out complex instructions in his second language at the rate of a submachine gun.

The only fully intelligible words are the ones he chooses to repeat for emphasis:all or “Compete, compete, compete!” Some players sit and comprehend what he is asking them to do. Others, like a shirtless Leroy Sané, stand there wearing a thousand-yard stare letting it all wash over them.

The film briefly cuts to shots from the bench - Guardiola showing the middle finger and barking “f*** you!” to someone off-screen, shouting “shut up, you!” to another argumentative rival - then returns to the dressing room. Guardiola is now alone, searching for answers in his tactics board, a study of single-mindedness.

The overall picture is one of an intense, exhausting, brilliant manager - not only dedicated to his craft but consumed by it - but the question you are left asking is: how much of this is he able to communicate? How much do his players understand? Later in the episode, Kevin De Bruyne is asked to describe his manager in a word. ‘Detail,’ he says.

This first instalment of All or Nothing, which premiered in central Manchester on Wednesday night with the City squad watching on, is not perfect. The narration can be hackneyed - football is a religion in Manchester, don’t you know - and it is a predictably uncritical view of the modern City, but its achievement is in revealing this ‘detail’ De Bruyne speaks of.

The training sessions, board meetings and team talks that Amazon gained access to offer insights into what is probably one of the most ambitious and innovative ‘projects’ in world football. Better still, they give a rare, exciting glimpse at the modern game’s most influential mind and the complex, exact demands he makes of his players.

At a team meeting before last September’s 5-0 victory over Liverpool, for example, Guardiola returns to his tactics board and tries to explain to his players how best to break through Jürgen Klopp’s defence. He drags one magnet down the pitch then quickly back up. That’s the way to do it. Then, the same magnet is then dragged up and down again, only this time a few millimetres to the right. That’s not the way to do it. The margins are fine.

There is always room for improvement, too. One scene shows Guardiola at his tactics board again, discussing Tottenham Hotspur with assistant Domenec Torrent, now the head coach at New York City. Satisfied with City’s plan to cope with Mauricio Pochettino’s side, the pair walk away, only for Guardiola to do his best Columbo impression and pull Torrent back to the board for “one other thing”.

Did this fastidiousness hinder Guardiola in his difficult first season, the first of his career to end without a trophy? Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, City’s chairman, says the 2016-17 campaign was psychologically taxing on his manager. Guardiola himself attributes City’s struggles to a certain “cockiness” and “arrogance”.

Yet it is hard to watch All or Nothing’s first episode and not conclude that, given how elaborate Guardiola’s demands are, it naturally took time for City players to understand and then meet them. Sometimes, even Guardiola is at a loss to explain what he wants. In this episode’s most revealing moment, he admits he does not have all the answers and claims he often finds himself yammering away to his players with not much new to say.

Even then, though, there is a method in the madness. The jumping, squatting, waving and general hyperactivity serve a purpose by giving the impression that he knows exactly what needs to be done, thereby breeding confidence in his players. After the frantic team-talk during that EFL Cup final, City went from underwhelming in the first half to clinical in the second, scoring twice to secure Guardiola’s first trophy.

You already know how this series ends - the Premier League title follows, in the most dominant fashion - but All or Nothing is not an end-of-season review and does more than just document City’s achievements. It also sheds a valuable light on the methods of their energetic and enigmatic manager who, as De Bruyne correctly identifies, is best defined by detail.

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