Ice in your veins.
A classic sign that a player has the temperament needed to not only eke out their full potential on the pitch – but also ensure they do the same on the training pitch – with sheer, bloody-minded dedication.
It requires a thought process that is blinkered, focused on a single narrative.
To be the best you can be. All the best players have it and it is never clearer than in moments of pressure.
It is a necessary component on the way to reaching the top. Just watch when a player is plying his or her trade in a high-stakes match. A Cup Final, a derby, a knockout game. Where every second counts.
Firstly, the player with icicles in their bloodstream will desire the ball at every conceivable opportunity. They will be confident that they can sway the match and can’t sit by and wait for the game to come to them. They feel they must act NOW.
And when the opportunity arises? To change the game in an instant?
In the immortal words of a Mr B. Rabbit;
“Will you capture it? Or just let it slip?”
A penalty. A free-kick. A chance in the box. A moment that needs the coolest of heads.
Like a penalty in a penalty shootout perhaps?
Or a performance in a Cup Final against a derby opponent?
Just watch Ainsley Maitland-Niles in both the Community Shield shootout and his entire first half against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.
His penalty was as nonchalant as they come. A trot forward, a swish of his boot and he sidefoots it past a keeper who has been nigh-on unbeatable at times last season.
His display against Chelsea was a surprise. Not because we didn’t think he had it in him, but we didn’t foresee AMN starting. Especially in midfield. But it was his constant running that stretched the Blues, put them on the backfoot. They couldn’t contain him and so they became defensive. It was predominantly AMN that changed the game for Arsenal against Chelsea – and Aubameyang applied the finish.
He couldn’t bear to let it pass him by – so he took the game by the scruff of the neck and demanded it follow instruction.
And not once did he lose his cool. All of the above was done with the same quiet, focused aura that he always maintains.
His displays have been rewarded with his first ever England senior call-up and it is hard to disagree that he doesn’t deserve it. He has been much more than a standby full-back – but it has been vitally important to his growth that he has played in that position.
He has filled in on both the right and left of defence, all the while knowing that his most effective – and favoured – position is in the centre of the park. Yet he knuckled down, learned the skills for that role and it has improved him. His timing seems to be excellent, his runs never leaving the team short and always arriving when the attack needs him.
Maitland-Niles, if he continues to progress and put in displays of this ilk, can go on to cement a first-team place in his favoured role. It all depends on Arteta’s formation, but with three in the centre, he can be the glue that binds both Xhaka and Ceballos.
AMN is on the rise and is hot property – but the Hale End boy is ice-cold.