Despite the best efforts of the makers of “All Or Nothing”, and a thespian voiceover from Sir Ben Kingsley, it turns out there is little drama in a team with by far the best players and by far the best manager sweeping all before them in England.
The overly long eight-part Amazon documentary is an oddly passionless conceit though meets the description of being behind the scenes and closed doors by taking place, aside from snatched training ground shots and in-game footage, within the hermetically sealed confines of Manchester City’s Etihad Academy, private planes and various dressing rooms.
Aside from a few glossy aerial shots of the city skyline, the accents of a few fans, backroom staff and the presence of Collyhurst’s Brian Kidd, it has very little to do with the city of Manchester.
It serves as a reminder that the Abu Dhabi City Football Group, headed by clipped, exquisitely educated and never less than expensively attired Khaldoon Al Mubarak, is a global enterprise.
Maybe that was the point for a documentary made by an international production team and in which several languages are spoken.
Perhaps the most Mancunian thing within the six-plus hours of footage is the 1930s-suburban semi-detached house where Vincent Kompany’s wife’s parents live, in which his father-in-law wears a United shirt.
If “All Or Nothing” reveals anything it is that City is a club with a framework built around Pep Guardiola at its nucleus. He has been handed the keys to a club built to his specifications, and is surrounded by a bewildering amount of executives, lawyers, assistants and confidantes, each working towards his regal expectation.
Guardiola is the undoubted draw, the main event. Aside from claims made by a mugging, camera-hogging assistant kitman, Kompany’s everyman personality and Fabian Delph the firebrand, the manager steals every scene.
The documentary delivers on its promises to see Guardiola at the coalface, though as someone who allowed the journalist Marti Perenau to dissect his three years at Bayern Munich over two books, there is still a heavy drift of self-awareness clouding the full picture.
Guardiola is no Brendan Rodgers, just happy to be at Liverpool and much too keen to show off during 2012’s “Being: Liverpool” cringefest, and neither is he Graham Taylor, nice to a fault during 1994’s “Impossible Job”, and clumsy to an even greater fault.
Thus, he is by no means as entertaining a screen presence as either, but even under such controlled conditions, Guardiola reveals himself as a man of truly remarkable intensity.
As he rains down instructions on his team in Anglo-Saxon invective, saying “guys” every third word – “f***ing guys” – he peacocks his revolutionary zeal as his players sit, usually blank-faced while he thunders around the dressing rooms of the Premier League, occasionally whipping back to his tactics board to pencil in some kind of special move or other.
At times, it appears surprisingly simplistic and his instructions are delivered at such a frantic speed in a frenzied whisper that subtitles are often required, but Guardiola’s effectiveness is laid out by his successes.
Two trophies, a record Premier League points total, a record gap to the second-placed team, and the sense already this season that only Liverpool can touch City, and need heavy fortune to be on their side to get even close.
“No, football is so complicated guys,” Guardiola says when Delph, raging after a defeat, asks his team-mates to remember the “basics”.
He often acts as if he alone has the key to the game, with arrogance an unmistakable part of what usually comes across as a brattish, aloof personality.
Many of his statements are glib, with “defence and attack are unpredictable with Arsenal”, a comment made on a night out with his backroom staff, not exactly an unveiling of football’s Rosetta Stone.
Within all that, a certain amount of vulnerability is exposed. Working with Guardiola appears nothing less than exhausting, most of all for himself.
His thin frame appears wraith-like at various points, and when the big fixtures come, like the Champions League quarter-final with Liverpool or the botched title coronation party against Manchester United, his anxiety is unmistakeable; in those fixtures, his teams played as if preoccupied and over-burdened.
And when defeat descends, Guardiola is just as fragile as the likes of Rodgers or Taylor, though motivating his team towards their 100-point total is the redemption narrative of a series which had previously leant too heavily on the treatment room where footballers – shock horror – have suffered injury playing football.
If the Guardiola show suggests anything, it is that his reign is finite. It would be a sincere shock to see him last beyond his 2021 contract extension.
How long can footballers exist in such an airless, humourless environment, and how much deeper can he dig within himself?
Both his Barcelona and Bayern regimes ended with exhausted disappointment. Unprecedented success has a debit side.
There, City’s rivals might find comfort within this cold, cosmetic depiction of a genius at work.