Last night, following Manchester United’s 3-0 Champions League group game victory against Basel, manager Jose Mourinho expressed his anger at the way his side had played.
The demanding Portuguese said his players played with too much confidence and, well, took the piss a bit.
“We were playing fantasy football, PlayStation football, flicks,” Mourinho said. “I don’t like it. We gambled a little bit, but football is football and you have to respect your opponent.
“I don’t know if goal difference will play a part. We lost position, our shape, we lost balls in easy situations. I didn’t like it, the players relaxed too much.”
While Mourinho’s comments come across as a tad harsh, he’s not the first manager to blast his players for playing “PlayStation football”. In fact, the Premier League and PlayStation have a bit of a history.
Mourinho’s latest jibe got me thinking about other times PlayStation has come up in real-world football. My list includes multiple references to Sony’s console – some hilarious, some ridiculous and some downright pointless. But throughout it all remember this: the thing about Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in.
Gary Neville versus David Luiz, aka David Lolz
Regular readers may be aware that I’m a Chelsea fan. I also love David Luiz to bits. But even I can see angry pundit Gary Neville had a point when he likened Luiz’s performance in Chelsea’s November 2011 defeat at Liverpool to “being controlled by a 10-year-old on a PlayStation”.
The flamboyant Brazilian defender is like that. He’s about as PlayStation a footballer you can get. He often does incredible things (that free kick against Liverpool, for example), but every now and then he makes a mistake that costs us a goal. But the Bridge would be a poorer place without him. In fact it was, while Luiz played for PSG for a bit.
In any case, Luiz is no longer the PlayStation footballer he was. Under Antonio Conte and in a 3-5-2 formation, he’s become one of the best defenders in the league. So now he’s just a bit mad and also very very good, which is ideal.
Anyway, here’s the inevitable Gary Neville backtrack.
Roy Hodgson versus Wayne Rooney
Back in August 2013, then England boss Roy Hodgson (who’s now managing Crystal Palace somehow) warned Wayne Rooney not to chat to left back Ashley Cole about a rumoured move from Manchester United to Chelsea while playing… PlayStation.
Hodgson, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t want England players thinking about anything other than performing terribly for England. So, he ordered they leave their club rivalries at the main gates and ignore the conversations around the PlayStation, which it seems is the football version of the water cooler.
“I don’t know whether it’s nave, but Ashley Cole and Wayne are quite close friends and I’m sure David Moyes knows that as well,” Hodgson said.
“If they aren’t speaking in the hotel they will be speaking on the phone. I do accept a duty of care and I will try to make it clear to the players of Manchester United and Chelsea that they will be with England now.
“As far as we’re concerned you can speak as much as you like to each other, but during these two or three days this is about England versus Scotland and the matches beyond that.
“I don’t expect anybody for one minute to fracture their concentration from what’s important.
“Both David Moyes and Jose Mourinho have been very supportive and fully understand my position.”
In the end, Rooney stayed at Manchester United. Didn’t help David Moyes much, though.
Petr Cech versus Rock Band
Here’s an odd one. Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech loves playing the drums. He even has his own YouTube channel in which he, yep, plays the drums. And he’s pretty good! But did you know he got into playing the drums after ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini introduced him to Rock Band on PlayStation? Here’s the quote:
“I never played any instrument before and I never had a music lesson or anything like that. But then once with Carlo Cudicini we played Rock Band on the PlayStation and I jumped on the drums without ever playing it before.
“I had so much fun and realised how much I enjoyed it because I love music in general. I was always listening to music but I realised that actively participating in the song you enjoy listening to was even better.
“Then he told me to get the digital drum kit so that I could put the iPod in and play along to songs for fun and relaxation.”
Cech reckons playing the drums has made him a better keeper. “You need to find a way to co-ordinate things and, once you learn how to programme your brain to do that, it helps you to co-ordinate even for football,” he said.
So there you have it. PlayStation made Petr Cech a better goalkeeper, or something.
Chile versus Lionel Messi
In July 2015, Chile were set to face Argentina in the Copa America final. The problem was, Argentina had Lionel Messi, probably the greatest footballer ever, to contend with. To combat Messi, Chile had their players play on a PlayStation. That’s about as detailed as the reports got, but here’s the quote from coach Jorge Sampaoli anyway:
“We have a simulation program that uses PlayStation technology and allows players to move the team around the pitch using a joystick. We can tell a player: ‘We are going to press in 4-4-2’ and the software shows us how that will work against our rival.”
Apparently want-away Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez put more hours in than most. It all sounds pretty silly, but whatever went on behind the scenes worked, as Chile won the final in a penalty shootout. That’s the true power of PlayStation right there.
Messi versus everyone
While we’re on Messi, the Barcelona great is so overpowered, Arsene Wenger once described him as a PlayStation player. In 2014, then Barcelona boss Luis Enrique said Messi did things in training “I have not even seen on the PlayStation”.
“He does things in training that I have not even seen… on the PlayStation,’ Enrique said with a dramatic pause.
Messi, the quintessential PlayStation footballer. What a legend.
David James versus Tomb Raider
This one’s a classic. Back in the mid 90s, England and Liverpool goalkeeper suffered a dip in form that led some to label him “Calamity James”. His response? Blame PlayStation.
Specifically, Tomb Raider and Tekken 2, which, James said, had been keeping him up all night – and it was that video game binge that led him to play terribly in a 4-3 victory over Newcastle in 1997.
“I was getting carried away playing Tekken II and Tomb Raider for hours on end,” James said. Right mate.
Romelu Lukaku versus a PS3 controller
Romelu Lukaku is known for terrorising defenders, but back in October 2013 he terrorised a PlayStation pad. Why? Because he lost a game of FIFA.
While preparing to take on Aston Villa’s defence while playing for Everton, the striker smashed up a PS3 pad after he lost at FIFA 14 to then teammate Kevin Mirallas. He posted a picture of the damaged goods on Instagram. Ouch.
Careful, Lukaku. Those PlayStation controllers cost, what, 30? That’s like, 10 seconds of your time or something.
Arsenal versus Norwich
If ever there was a PlayStation goal scored, it was Jack Wilshere’s strike against Norwich in 2013.
The goal involved wonderful one-touch passing that bamboozled the Norwich defense and culminated in a first-time caress into the back of the net by the once-full of potential Wilshere. It’s a beautiful goal – one of that season’s best, and Arsenal through and through.
After the match, Arsenal’s German star Mesut Ozil praised his teammates:
“I’ve got to praise the three players involved for the first goal. It was real ‘tiki-taka’ – almost like they were playing PlayStation! It was an unbelievable goal.”
Chelsea versus Amiga
This one doesn’t have anything to do with PlayStation but as a Chelsea fan I had to include it. Back in the day, before Roman Abramovich’s billions dragged Chelsea into the big time, before Autoglass and before Coors, we were sponsored by Amiga. Yep, that’s right, the Commodore Amiga. The retro 1993/94 Umbro Chelsea shirt is one I still have hanging inside my wardrobe. And around that time I was playing video games on an Amiga, too. An Amiga 1200 in fact.
Theme Park, The Secret of Monkey Island, that sort of thing.
Why have I brought this up? A couple of reasons. I wanted our younger readers (we have those, right?) to know that video games and football go back further than PlayStation, and I wanted an excuse to publish this picture of ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Dmitri Kharine, which is quite something.
Got any cool PlayStation meets real football stories? If so, let us know about them in the comments.