Like its predecessor All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspurs, which focused on José Mourinho, the Arsenal series focuses on the equally good-looking manager Mikel Arteta during the 2021-2022 season. I’m not sure why anyone other than an Arsenal fan would want to watch this series.
Basically it is 8 episodes for their fans to remember a Season of Progress. After finishing in 8th place for 2 years in a row, Arsenal finish the 2021-2022 in 5th. They don’t make the Champions League, but heck, that wasn’t supposed to happen until 2022-2023 anyway.
Welcome to Arteta
Maybe Arsenal fans would watch this series for the pre-game, half-time, and post-game speeches?
“I don’t accept these f**king standards… Because I see it in training that it doesn’t matter to give the ball away. It’s okay, sometimes I go to the next ball and I run. NO! Because in a game it is goal! When I lose a duel, I’m upset. When I lose the small sided games, I’m upset. Because that’s the f**king standards. Because you come here and now you f**king lose. It’s nowhere near you guys, it’s f**king shit. I’m telling you, shit!”Arteta after the loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup
In his calmer pre-game moments, Arteta is like a Pep-lite impressionist who maybe has watched too many Harvard B-school webinars on human motivation. He draws caricatures and uses lightbulb metaphors to inspire the players.
“…A bulb by himself is nothing… each of us play the game connected … we connect with 60,000 people that creates more energy… Because at the end is electricity that through heat creates light and life because if not, it would be f**king dark.”Arteta pre-game before the Chelsea match
While his drawings are truly laughable, they are probably more understandable than the tactical advice he gives players at half-time. I could never get over the fact that Arteta keeps explaining half-time tactics on white boards that most of the players can’t even see.
Arteta’s coaching principles could be summarized as follows:
- You have to bring energy and passion, want it more than them, and bring that level to every minute
- You have to earn the right to play the game
- When you want to win, you have to suffer
Compared to Mourinho, Arteta comes up short. Really short. Mourinho, for whatever faults he may have, comes across as someone you have to respect. On the other hand, you realize that Arteta is an empty machine. He mostly grimaces in the first 5 episodes, and by the 8th episode, he screams right in Lacazette’s face in the locker room. Is this really a guy you play for? I don’t know.
Problems with the series
There are 3 substantive weaknesses to the series. First of all is the relentless focus on the scowling Arteta, so much so that the title should really be All or Nothing: Mikel Arteta. The man with the steely gaze, who refuses to answer questions, becomes a tiresome trope. When the 6th episode replays an Arteta interview, you realize the hidden reasoning behind the take down of former star player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Perhaps one, perhaps more, violations of discipline caused Arteta to lose all trust in the £350,000-a-week star, barring Auba from team practice for 6 months.
The series captures moments of disclosure by the executive staff, the board, and players, which reveal that while everyone voices support, most cannot fathom Arteta’s hard-headed decision. Perhaps that is what you expect in a top-down organization.
To make the hierarchy even more clear, the opening episode gives a lot of face time to my-dad’s-the-owner Board member Josh Kroenke. Kroenke shows his unwavering support for Arteta, which connotes to everyone that the manager’s job is safe until his contract runs out in 2023. Actually, in episode 8, Arteta’s contract is extended to 2024-2025. Kroenke reappears in a tiny snippet at the end, ostensibly to bless the Season of Progress.
The second problem with the series is the lack of establishing familiarity with the players or staff. After meeting goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale’s family in the first episode, there is little further coverage of the GK. While the series starts off by covering Bukayo Saka, who was subjected to horrendous racial abuse after the 2022 Euros, the coverage tapers off quickly. We spend the rest of the series watching Saka eat lunch and Ramsdale throw water bottles when frustrated. There are lots of massages.
By episodes 7 and 8, there are a few minutes with some of the benchwarmers who are finally getting their chances to play, after injuries to key starters and Auba’s departure. We get to know a little about Nketiah, Mo Elneny, and Rob Holding, all players who will probably take on starting roles in 2022-2023 (at least they are still on the roster as of this review).
Without those few player interviews, there is no back story, no character arc, and really nothing to emotionally bind the casual viewer to this club, its players, or this series. You might as well watch a game highlight reel. That would be better than repeatedly watching Lacazette arrive at practice in his red Ferrari, or wondering when Arteta last shaved.
The third problem with the series is that there is very little football footage. You will see almost nothing of practices, and game highlights are miniscule. Because the match footage is so brief in the first 6 episodes, it is difficult to feel the game atmosphere that returned to the stadiums after the pandemic. The last 2 episodes show more stadium scenes and on-the-street fan interviews to convey fan excitement, probably to encourage people to come to games. But the snippets are so brief, I did not find them engaging. Unlike the typical football film, there is little to empathize with.
Amazon’s All or Nothing: Arsenal series is a Prime example of the broad disappointment that soccer movies and football films have become. In a typical World Cup year, soccer movies spring forth in multitudes. But for WC 2022, we instead are being inundated with infomercial series after series. Designed for binging, you pretty much want to up chuck the bloated content. In waste management terms, a great deal of detritus has floated to the top of all the streams.
It’s interesting that 72 Films barely mentions this passionless production on its website, which makes me think this sorry series was really led by Amazon Studios. This is the first team series I’ve watched where I truly felt I wasted my time. After all, what can you say about a team that comes in 5th? What can you say about a manager whose need to have a young team may be driven by his need to command respect from players that he can more easily control?
You know what soccer movies really need? Nicolas Cage playing Mikel Arteta in a new version of Arsenal. If you’ve seen The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Cage’s alter-ego Nicky would be perfect for playing Arteta.
5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5