Read Robert Exley's in-depth review of 2020. Here's his take on the month Arsenal lifted their 14th FA Cup after the glorious victory over Chelsea at Wembley in the showpiece final to bring joy to Gooners everywhere.
1st August 2020: If anything could sum up the extent of not knowing whether you were coming or going in 2020, it would be the first day of August. Very often the date of the Community Shield or the Emirates Cup or some other pre-season curtain raiser event.
And North of the border it was the start of the 2020/21 season. The SPL came to the decision on 18th May that their season could not be concluded, with Celtic declared Champions on a Points Per Game basis.
To throw even more confusion into the mix, this would also be the first day of the domestic Cricket season, which was originally scheduled for 2nd April.
The one-off ‘Bob Willis Trophy’ – which would replace the annual Cricket County Championship for one season only – would also kick off on this date.
Crucially though, especially if you’re an Arsenal fan, this was the traditional end to the football season with the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
For Arsenal, their Pre-Season for 2019/20 started 54 weeks prior with a friendly against the Colorado Rapids. Competitive fixtures started 51 weeks earlier with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle United at St. James’s Park.
The exceptional nature of this FA Cup Final compared with the previous 138 could be summed up by Emeli Sande’s rendition of ‘Abide with Me’ from the roof of an empty Wembley Stadium. In any given year, an FA Cup Final ticket was extremely difficult to obtain, this year however, it would be impossible.
Arsenal had appeared in twenty other FA Cup Finals, which included freak goals where the goalkeeper had dropped the ball into his own net, a Graf Zeppelin interrupting play, the banning of all newsreel cameras, a goal rush in the last five minutes, a goalscoring hero with a broken nose and two broken fingers and being the first team to win a final on a penalty shoot-out with barely a shot at goal in normal time.
Something about being in a freak final with an absent crowd seemed to sit easy with Arsenal’s history in the competition.
Most people had Chelsea down as the favourites ahead of the game, so it came as no shock when Christian Pulisic put the Blues ahead after five minutes. Arsenal however pulled level with a penalty on 28 minutes converted by Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
The Gabonese forward put Arsenal ahead on 67 minutes. Arsenal also obtained a man advantage with the sending off of Mateo Kovacic six minutes later. Arsenal held out for a 2-1 victory with two goal hero Aubameyang also lifting the FA Cup as Captain (a case of the number 14 for winning number 14 for Arsenal).
It would also be the final game in an Arsenal shirt for understudy keeper Emi Martinez who ably slotted in as replacement for Bernd Leno after his injury six weeks prior.
With the 2019/20 season finally completed, there would follow a six-week break before the start of the 2020/21 Premiership season
3rd August 2020: Back in the real world, as the Government would look to kick start the economy post-Covid and seek to avoid a second month of negative growth and officially falling into recession, it would initiate the start of a month long “Eat out to help out” scheme.
The scheme would involve a 50 per cent discount on meals at indoor venues, three days per week, with the remainder of the cost picked up by the government.
As enticing as it sounded, it was not an offer I was inclined to take up, for the same reason as to why I haven’t entered a pub since March, though it does seem that many people across the country did.
4th August 2020: To decide the final place in next season’s Premiership, Fulham and Brentford took part in an all-West London affair for the Championship Play Off final at Wembley.
After a goalless 90 minutes, Fulham ran out 2-1 winners to achieve promotion to the Premiership. Earlier that day, a huge explosion in Beirut caused at least 204 deaths, over 6000 injuries and an estimated 300,000 people homeless. The explosion was caused by 2,750 tonnes of incorrectly stored ammonium nitrate.
5th-6th August 2020: With the domestic season put to bed, the remaining Europa League and Champions League Round of 16 second leg ties were to be played out, five months after the first leg.
After a 5-0 away leg victory, Man United beat LASK 2-1 at Old Trafford to reach the one-legged knock out stage from the quarter finals onward to be played out behind closed doors in Germany.
One day later, Rangers crashed out of the competition with 0-1 away defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. Meanwhile, Wolves progress to the last eight stage with a 1-0 victory over Olympiacos at Molineux.
7-8th August 2020: A 2-1 victory for Man City over Real Madrid sees them into the Quarter Finals of the Champions League. Meanwhile in the real world, lockdown measures were reintroduced in Preston after a spike in Covid-19 cases, which included the banning of households from meeting up with each other at home.
One day later and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea suffered further heart break with a 1-4 defeat away to Bayern Munich, giving the German side a 7-1 aggregate victory to progress to the last eight knock out stage taking place behind closed doors in Portgual.
10th-11th August 2020: Man United progress to the Semi Finals of the Europa League with a 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen after extra time. Meanwhile, Wolves crash out of the Europa League with a 0-1 defeat to Seville, 13 months on from their first tie in the tournament’s qualifying phase
12th August 2020: Atalanta’s Champions League journey ends with a 1-2 defeat to Paris St Germain in Lisbon’s Stadium of Light.
14th August 2020: Arsenal signed Willian on a free transfer from Chelsea on a three-year contract. Meanwhile in the Champions League, Barcelona (featuring Messi, Suarez et al) crashed to an incredible 2-8 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Quarter Finals
15th-16th August 2020: English involvement in Europe ends as Man City crash out of the Champions League in the Quarter Final stage with a 1-3 defeat to Lyon. One day later, Man United crash out of the Europa League at the Semi Final stage with a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla.
18-19 August 2020: Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain reach the final of the Champions League with thumping 3-0 wins over Lyon and RB Leipzig respectively
21st August 2020: Alexis Sanchez, now with Inter Milan, suffers a 2-3 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League final, securing Sevilla’s passage to the Champions League for 2020/21.
23rd August 2020: After steam rollering their way to the final with goals galore, Bayern Munich secure the Champions League with a mere 1-0 victory over Paris St Germain in the final
25th August 2020: Just over three weeks on from winning the FA Cup, Arsenal kick off with an away pre-season friendly against MK Dons. Mohamed Elneny kicks off with a wonder goal, with further goals from Eddie Nketia, Mark McGuinness and a Reiss Nelson penalty Arsenal earned a 4-1 victory, with Rob Holding putting one through his own goal.
29th August 2020: Three weeks on from winning the FA Cup Final, Arsenal take on Liverpool in the Community Shield at an empty Wembley Stadium. The warm-up fixture before the game however would be the Women’s Community Shield between Chelsea and Man City at Wembley, which was the first women’s football action since lockdown. The game was won by Chelsea 2-0.
In the men’s game, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang put Arsenal ahead on twelve minutes. After a Takumi Minamino equaliser the game went to a penalty shootout. A Rhian Brewster miss gave Arsenal their sixteenth shield victory.
Elsewhere, a pre-season friendly between Brighton and Chelsea took place at the Amex Stadium in front of 2,000 fans – the first time in which spectators have been present during a game since March, as something of a trial event.
31st August 2020: As August draws to a close, so too does the Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme. The cost to the UK exchequer was assessed to be about £522 million. At the start of the scheme, new infections in the UK stood at 761. Two weeks later this figure stood at 1440.
By 14/09/2020 - two weeks after the scheme ended – the figure stood at 2621.
The scheme was of course designed to put the UK economy somewhere back to where it was in March. Unfortunately, some might argue that as a by-product it was a factor in putting the UK’s fight against Covid-19 back to April.