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All Or Nothing: Arsenal - Review

All Or Nothing opens with Arsenal at a different place a season ago to where they are now. Full confession: they’re my club, I watched about 70-80% of these games unfold in real time last season, so the memory of the Brentford/City/Chelsea defeats are still fresh and vivid as they were the day they happened. It makes uneasy viewing – by the fourth game of the season, highlighted in the first episode – if Arsenal lose to Norwich, then they will have the worst start an Arsenal team has ever had. It’s daunting stuff – we get to see the toll it takes on these professionals whose closely guarded lives are so hidden to us, and we get to see how they react to their stardom: Bakyo Saka, the subject of the first twenty minutes, handles his penalty kick miss that led to England losing the Euros to Italy and is noticed by fans – the entire staff, in fact - even going undercover in a Waitrose to buy a Ready Meal. With fame comes expectation; and All or Nothing makes you aware that the players are aware of this – Saka and Ramsdale are the focus of the first episode; Ramsdale – the subject of a £35m transfer fee from relegated Sheffield United, who receives so much hate and abuse online it’s his job to shut it out and carry on playing.

All or Nothing doesn’t shy away from the past failures of the management at Arsenal; but if anything – it could have been more scathing: The mass campaigns against the side’s involvement in the Super League are briefly brushed over and Josh Kroenke, de facto CEO in the absence of his father Stan, is insistent that the Kroneke’s only had full control in 2018 and they’ve learnt some costly lessons before then, their ship is readied now – Josh insists. It’s up to you whether or not you believe him. This feels very much like a Kroenke-controlled vision, there’s an air of cleanness to it all – the team talk that Arteta gives before the Norwich game makes it very much feel like he's aware that the cameras are on him; the players are too – and with that comes an air of manufactured quality that you’re not seeing anything that Arsenal don’t want you to see. It prevents it from going into as much depth as the hall of fame football documentary standard; Sunderland Till I Die, and your mileage will depend as ever; on your tolerance for Arsenal football club: the first three episodes, released as part of a nine episode series that covers the events of the season just gone – span the opening three games, the transfer window, the North London Derby – key events are covered – but again, there’s always that air of falseness to it – an air of corporation backed false authenticity.

Martin Odegaard voiced his displeasure of the Amazon cameras before the series and it’s no surprise that he’s left out early on – but the Amazon series knows who Arsenal’s big name players are. I would have liked to see more commentary on the transfer window than just “we signed these players” – it feels a bit flat; but then – journalists have already covered these moments in key detail – the names like David Ornstein are no stranger to Arsenal fans. What it’s more about is the players themselves; Ramsdale, Saka, the behind-the-scenes training of the first episode are fascinating, and it's not quite as inducingly bad in terms of meme-generating potential that I expected it to be. Instead; removed from the corporate attittudes of it all - it's a product more than a work of art - getting to open up the closed door of football players and their livliehood is fascinating. For those who don't follow the sport it won't win any converts; but then the All or Nothing series feel more for the fans than anyone else - I've not watched the Spurs or Manchester City ones because I felt no reason to, and your mileage will almost certainly be wrapped up in that. It is cool to see an experienced actor Daniel Kaluuya work as the narration for the show and see one-to-one interactions with the fans as well as the players; and the classic overreaction of Arsenal fans is captured in the very first episode: given the state of the team at the start of the season, were you expecting anything less against Man City and Chelsea? It's amazing how quickly Arteta was able to get the momentum flowing again; and All or Nothing is all about that upward swing - Arsenal are back, and this is the season - if it will not be remembered for anything else - it will be where the fans got back on board with the club's vision.

The first three episodes are currently available on Amazon Prime Video internationally.


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