Arsenal missed out on European football for the first time in 25 years last season, finishing eighth in the Premier Leaguejpellgen/Flickr

Following the announcement that fans will be getting a behind-the-scenes dive into Arsenal’s 2021-22 season, the Emirates will be receiving more than just an appetizing reimbursement for opening their doors to the cameras of Amazon Prime. In line with the widely renown series All or Nothing: Manchester City and All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, an insight into life beyond the pitch at the other side of North London during a crucial season for the Gunners is certainly going to be a highly anticipated affair.

Produced by 72 Films’ Mark Raphael, Clare Cameron and three-time BAFTA winner John Douglas, a comprehensive overview into the backroom tactics and close-knit relationships within the Emirates will go leaps and bounds beyond the usual secrecy attributed to the Gunners. The club has announced that the documentary will allow fans to “follow our squad away from the pitch to examine the daily challenges faced by elite athletes, the work we do in our local and global communities and what connects the Arsenal family and our special club”.

“a unique insight into the physical hurdles and mental obstacles that players face on a day-to-day basis will no doubt serve to humanise many aspects of the game”

Players are often lambasted for their poor performances, lacklustre energy and underwhelming output throughout various media platforms whether it be in the newspapers, social media or in the case of the Gunners, fan channels such as the notorious AFTV. However, a unique insight into the physical hurdles and mental obstacles that players face on a day-to-day basis will no doubt serve to humanise many aspects of the game. After a disappointing run of seasons for the North London side who failed to qualify for European football for the first time in 25 years last season, All or Nothing: Arsenal may well offer fans that alternative point of view which goes beyond the provocative articles that pervade our social media feeds. What this documentary may thus do is humanise various aspects of elite sport, thereby deflecting from the fabricated depiction of athletes as nothing more than overpaid individuals who lack the commitment and dedication of the every-day employee by illustrating their efforts both on and off the pitch.

Such documentaries as Sunderland Till’ I Die and Take Me Home: Leeds United have served to revolutionise the overall perspective on football clubs by emphasising not just the players’ performances, but also by paying attention to the fans, kit-men, cafeteria staff and stewards whose efforts for the club capture the very essence of what goes into making footballing institutions a home for the many. Sunderland’s aim to return to the top flight was one of the first of a widespread effort to totalise the fan-cam experience by shedding light on a range of issues, from the relationships that exist within a club from the level of senior leadership, to the individual fan scrambling to purchase tickets for the final game of the season.

“football matches are not simply isolated events [...] but [...] historical experiences that deeply resonate with the lived experiences of their audiences”

Emotive moments such as Sunderland’s home defeat to Burton Albion, which subsequently sealed their fate in the Championship, or midfielder Kalvin Phillips’ heartwarming decision to facetime his grandmother after signing a new contract with his boyhood club Leeds, can only be fully captured through deep-dive documentaries into life beyond the field. Arsenal’s upcoming pageant may emphasise just those very occasions. With this comes the realisation then, that football matches are not simply isolated events to be brushed over once the whistle is blown, but are themselves historical experiences that deeply resonate with the lived experiences of their audiences which such documentaries have now sought to highlight.


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And yet, not all things are rosy with these documentaries. Although it is clear that such insights may humanise certain aspects of sport by bringing fans closer to the players, the added pressure of an all-access camera crew undermining the much-needed privacy of the athletes and staff may in fact do more harm than good. It is reported that Jurgen Klopp had been instrumental in Liverpool’s decision to reject a similar documentary during the 2018-19 season, allegedly believing that “there is nothing to be gained from fly-on-the-wall exposure and that people’s behaviour changes when they are on camera”. Perhaps Klopp is right, and when push comes to shove in such a crucial season for Arsenal, the added element of behind-the-scenes content may negatively impact the players’ season at the detriment of the long-term success of the club itself. Fledgling manager Mikel Arteta has yet to impress since his early FA Cup win with the Gunners last year, and the pressures of qualifying for Europe may not in and of itself be aided by Amazon’s presence, who similarly witnessed the collapse of Arsenal’s North London rivals Spurs as manager José Mourinho was sacked that very season.

Sport is diametrically opposed to reality TV, and there are fine margins that must not be crossed which could compromise the success of athletes who cannot be expected to put up with such forms of content. A break from an audience is undoubtedly necessary for all professional athletes’ physical and mental health, and a significantly increased media presence can only serve to exert unmatched amounts of both pressure and pervasiveness that may arm critics with the necessary ammunition to further lambast players for their actions both on and off the pitch. With all things media, there are most certainly pros and cons, and only time will tell whether the outcome is ultimately a negative one for Arsenal. As for now, I can only wait in anticipation as a pivotal season unfolds for the Gunners that may determine their future as a long-term threat in the highest tier of English football, let alone amongst Europe’s giants. For a club recently marred by a takeover controversy and off-the-pitch drama since the inception of a European Super League, privacy may be a much-needed gift, or it may prove to be a curse.