By Rob Kelly
The ability to analyse performances objectively and a remorseless inner drive are the key characteristics of an elite footballer, according to Arsène Wenger.
The Arsenal manager attended a Q&A in the Diamond Club at Emirates Stadium earlier this month and, having managed hundreds of professionals during his career, Wenger was asked what makes certain players so special.
“I believe that any person in top sport must win 7-1 like we did [against Blackburn], go home and think 'what did I do wrong today?' That is also the same when you lose 3-0,” he replied.
“I feel that the common denominator of people who are successful at the top level is that they have a fair, objective assessment of their performance.
“They can be more personal, detached, angry or happy but if they are at the top they analyse what they do well. Top-level sportsmen are even over-critical of themselves.”
While Wenger admires the dedication these elite performers demonstrate, he acknowledges that in certain cases it can be problematic.
“Without motivation you go nowhere,” he said. “There are some very interesting statistics that exist in top sport.
“Every two years there is a study made by psychologists in Belgium. They ask top-level athletes anonymously, 'If we gave you a pill that makes you win the next Olympic Games or World Championship, but five years later you die, would you take it?'
“At the top professional level, there is a consistent percentage of more than half that say they would take it. At amateur level it is two per cent.
“That just shows you that at that level it can be a question of life or death. To be a star, or be the best in the world, some are ready to give their lives. That is the kind of motivation you face.”
Wenger believes that elite performers also have a tendency to show their quality when it truly matters most.
“Sir Steve Redgrave was interviewed and he said that the last gold medal he got [in 2000], with three minutes to go he was absolutely dead,” he said.
“His legs were gone, his lungs were burning and he thought he would never get there. But he got there by telling himself, 'In three minutes, the pain will go but the gold medal will last forever'. That got him over the line.
“Sometimes you just have to find certain resources at a moment where you have to push. The champions find that.”