Being the main man carries a heavy burden as it is. The expectation is unrelenting and often suffocating.
But it goes up a level again at times of suspicion and speculation. Eyes focus in more intensely, cameras follow every move, body language is forensically analysed and meaning is extracted from everything.
That cocktail of pressure centred around two men this past weekend. Amid a desperate race for UEFA Champions League places, Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho carried the enormous weight of expectation coupled with conjecture.
The threat of distraction was clear. And yet there was no evidence either man felt it.
In a performance that defied the want-away sensations surrounding him, Alexis guided Arsenal to a crucial 4-1 victory over Stoke City.
The Gunners had faced a simple equation: Win, and stay in the UCL hunt; or slip up, and confirm disaster.
That such a crunch outing took place at Stoke made it more significant. The bet365 Stadium has been a house of pain for Arsenal – a place where Aaron Ramsey broke his leg, where Arsenal are preyed upon, where despair has been all too frequent.
But Alexis stepped up to end the Gunners’ nightmares. After making the assist with a delightful through-ball for Mesut Ozil for Arsenal’s second, the Chilean settled matters with a trademark goal, dribbling through the Stoke defence and firing into the corner.
The starring performance earned the dynamic forward a score of 92/100 on the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which provides the first ever system to measure and rate a team and player’s performance under pressure.
The Goal Pressure Index uses more than 750,000 data points as well as factors including league position, point in the season and the opposition to calculate a rating out of 100 for every Premier League player every week.
The result of the Alexis show on Saturday was a ramping up of the pressure on Liverpool, who faced West Ham United at the London Stadium on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men faced a similar equation to Arsenal 24 hours earlier. The Reds’ record this season against weaker opposition also provided the suggestion that danger awaited.
Except it didn’t.
In a majestic performance from a central midfield role, Coutinho, who'd been surrounded by talk of a move to Barcelona, ripped apart West Ham and propelled Liverpool to within one win of the Champions League to finish with a score of 94 in the Goal Pressure Index.
In the first half, the Brazilian wiped out the Hammers’ defence with a single pass to set up Daniel Sturridge for the opener. Then, after the break he danced through the home side twice, finishing exquisitely on both occasions.
It was the first time Coutinho had been directly involved in three goals in a single game for Liverpool. His first goal, struck from outside the penalty area, also took him to 14 Premier League goals from outside the 18-yard box – the highest figure among all players since he made his debut.
Alexis had handled the pressure before transferring it onto him. Coutinho dealt with it just fine, too.