Read Robert Exley's view of 2020: Here's his take on October of a momentous year
The Government and the Sports Authorities had been hoping, as well as greatly banking, on some degree of a return to normality in the month of October. Sadly though, as we progressed toward winter however, normality seemed to slip further away from the nation’s grasp. Notable events for October 2020 would include the following:
1st October 2020: For Arsenal, the month started with a second trip to Anfield inside a week for a fourth round League Cup tie with Liverpool. The game ends 0-0 after 90 minutes, with no extra time the game goes straight to penalties. Mohamed Elneny missed from the spot; however, a Bernd Leno save from Divock Origi enabled Arsenal to take the shoot out to sudden death. Another save by Bernd Leno from Harry Wilson meant that a successful conversion from Joe Willock would put Arsenal through to the next round. Liverpool keeper Adrian got to the ball, however it managed to slip through, and Arsenal were through to the Quarter Finals with a home tie against Man City.
As English football was prevented from welcoming back spectators, over in Australia, Aussie Rules was able to claw back some degree of normality with the AFL Finals Series played out during the month of October. However, owing to state border controls and quarantine restrictions, the venues for final games were restricted to the Adelaide Oval in South Australia, Perth’s Optus Stadium in Western Australia, as well as the Brisbane Cricket Ground and the Carrara Stadium in the state of Queensland.
2nd October 2020: Within 24 hours of Arsenal’s tie with Liverpool, Reds striker Sadio Mane tests positive for Covid-19. Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara also tested positive a few days prior.
4th October 2020: Arsenal face a visit from Sheffield United, who after three games had failed to pick up a point. After failing to get going for the first hour, Bukayo Saka put Arsenal ahead. Within three minutes Nicolas Pepe extended Arsenal’s lead. Six minutes from time, David McGoldrick pulled one back however Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners.
That however would be far from the biggest news of the day on the football front. Later that afternoon, Man United suffered a 1-6 home defeat to Spurs. Also, in the evening kick off, a bad week for Champions Liverpool would get even worse, suffering a 2-7 defeat away to last term’s relegation candidates Aston Villa. Though the result obviously indicated that Villa were going to be a tougher opponent to face this season (as Arsenal were to find out in a few weeks’ time), you get the feeling that the unusual situation of Covid, as well as playing in empty stadiums, was contributing to such freak score lines (Villa may well have beaten Liverpool quite comprehensive without Covid-19, but would anyone seriously imagine them thumping them 7-2?).
As 23,000 new positive Covid cases were confirmed in the UK, the Merseyside area at the start of October was beginning to suffer a spike in cases. In the week that followed, the Swiss FA also announced that Liverpool star Xherdan Shaqiri tested positive, making a third case within the squad (though Liverpool FC had announced on October 8th that a second Covid-19 test carried out had shown him to be negative).
5th October 2020: Cinema chains Odeon, Vue and Cineworld announce temporary closures and a reduction in hours due to delays in big film releases, such as the new James Bond release ‘No Time to Die’. Cineworld announce that as many as 5,500 jobs were at risk and claim that the cinema industry is now “unviable”. In response to the news, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to return to cinemas and that he would "encourage people to go out to the cinema, enjoy themselves and support" movie theatres.
Meanwhile, one high profile economic casualty of Covid-19 was the axing of Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus after 27 years, due to the continued absence of fans from the Emirates Stadium.
9th October 2020: As Premiership clubs were still prohibited from admitting fans, the Premier League instead sought to recoup some of their losses by charging £14.95 per game on a pay per view basis for all games which were not initially to feature on Sky Sports or BT Sport. The Premier League found a loophole within their existing TV deal, which is for 200 games a season to be aired, leaving them able to charge on a per game basis for the remaining 180 games
11th October 2020: England face Belgium in the UEFA Nations League. The Belgians took the lead with a penalty from Romalu Lakaku. Marcus Rashford equalised with a penalty, before Chelsea’s Mason Mount gave England a 2-1 victory.
13th October 2020: News emerges that Cristiano Ronaldo tests positive for Covid-19
14th October 2020: The UK government introduces a three-tier system, with around a quarter of the UK’s population under some form of local lockdown. The Liverpool City area is the only area to be placed in the very high category, where pubs, bars, gyms, casinos and bookmakers are expected to close. The UK hospitality sector says it will launch legal action against local lockdown rules that could force pubs, bars and restaurants to close.
Meanwhile, England crash to a 0-1 home defeat to Denmark in the UEFA Nations League with a Christian Eriksen penalty. England suffered two red cards in one game for the first time in 148 years of international football. Harry Maguire and Reece James both received their marching orders.
17th-18th October 2020: Arsenal head to the Etihad Stadium to face Man City. A goal from Raheem Stirling midway through the first half was enough for Arsenal to suffer a 0-1 defeat. Meanwhile, the following day, Spurs faced West Ham at home. Jose Mourinho’s side raced into a three-goal lead within sixteen minutes, with goals for Son and two for Harry Kane. The Hammers however pulled back three goals in the last eight minutes with goals from Balbuena, Sanchez and Lanzini.
21st October 2020: Marcus Rashford had called on MPs to extend the free school meals programme as part of his Child Food Poverty Taskforce. The Child Food Poverty Taskforce proposals were voted down in Parliament. Via Rashford’s Twitter page, Cafes, shops, pubs, and councils across the UK have promised to step in, inspiring a collective of digital and social media experts called TechForUK to add the providers to a map
22nd October 2020: Arsenal kick off their Europa League campaign with a trip to Rapid Vienna in front of a limited crowd of 3,000 Rapid Vienna fans – the first time Arsenal had played in front of any audience since the West Ham game in March. The Gunners fell behind five minutes into the second half as a result of an error from Bernd Leno, in what was an unusually nervy performance by the German keeper. Within a four-minute spell around the 70th minute however, a David Luiz header followed by an Aubameyang strike gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory.
23rd October 2020: Covid-19 continues to hit the North of England badly, as Lancashire and Greater Manchester were added to Tier 3 restrictions along with Liverpool.
24th October 2020: Post-Covid football continues to throw up further freak score lines. After losing to Liverpool in the Champions League during the week, Ajax set a record victory for the Eredivisie by thumping VVV-Venlo 13-0 away from home.
Meanwhile, Six Nations Rugby resumed after a hiatus of seven months, with Ireland defeating Italy 50-17 behind closed doors.
Also, one of the World’s very few major sporting events to take place in front of a crowd in the tens of thousands was the Aussie Rules Grand Final, which took place at the Brisbane Cricket Ground in front of a crowd of 29,707. The tie was won by Melbourne-based side, Richmond.
25th October 2020: Arsenal take on Leicester at home in a Sunday evening fixture which would be their first game to feature on a pay per view basis on Sky Sports Box Office. A goal for Jamie Vardy ten minutes from time inflicted a 0-1 defeat on the Gunners – Leicester’s first away victory at Arsenal since September 1973. Arsenal’s performance was so poor that personally, I felt like asking Sky Sports Box Office for their money back
26th October 2020: Finally, some good news on the Covid-19 front is that Scientists report that the Oxford University/Astra Zenica COVID-19 vaccine shows a "strong immune response" among elderly volunteers.
28th October 2020: The latest high profile Covid-19 death is that of comedian and ‘Not Going Out’ star Bobby Ball at the age of 76
29th October 2020: Arsenal’s month ends with a visit from League of Ireland side Dundalk in the Europa League. After holding out for most of the first half, Arsenal managed to break down Dundalk’s resistance with two goals in the last three minutes of the first half from Eddie Nketia and Joe Willock, which meant that The Gunners went in two goals up at half time. A Nicolas Pepe goal one minute into the second half finished off the scoring with a 3-0 victory. Earlier in the day, Spurs lose 0-1 away to Royal Antwerp in the Europa League.
31st October 2020: Six Nations Rugby comes to a conclusion with England defeating Italy 34-5 in an empty Stadio Olympico in Rome. Later on in the evening, a 35-27 victory for France over Ireland in the Stade De France secured the Championship for England.
So as October 2020 came to an end, finally England can boast coming out on top in Rugby, rather than in global league tables for Covid-19 per capita deaths. Though as we will see in November, that two-week lockdown which Boris Johnson was at pains to avoid at the end of October, would actually turn out to be a four week one the following month.
Throughout the day on Halloween, Downing Street would leave the nation in the lurch expecting an important news announcement on the possibility of national lockdown at some point in the early afternoon, only to be finally delivered at around 7PM in the evening.
And, as will be seen in the review of November, it would turn out to be a month in which there would be so little to cheer either on the Covid-19 front, or the Arsenal one, as Arsenal’s start to the season would now turn out to be their worst since 1974/75.