If Arsène Wenger thought that Alexis Sanchez’s hamstring was giving him headaches, Theo Walcott is giving a different kind of problem.
The England international is set to become a father once again with wife Melanie due to give birth any day soon. It’s been agreed by the club that if it happens before Saturday lunchtime’s kick-off at Old Trafford, Walcott can leave to be with his wife at an important moment in his life.
It means Wenger has to have a ‘Plan B’ ready at very short notice. He has several options: Aaron Ramsey has been favoured in that role and may be anyway if the Arsenal manager takes the view that Carl Jenkinson needs some more defensive support.
That’s if the Welsh midfielder isn’t playing in the centre, replacing the injured Santi Cazorla. In those circumstances, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be the solution. After enduring a couple of bad seasons, the former England international has regained his form on the appearances so far this campaign.
Some would say Walcott could have timed this so it fitted in with the fixture list. In December 2002, the wife of then-Everton goalkeeper Richard Wright, had her labour induced so that he would be free to play in the Merseyside the following Sunday.
Wright had moved from Arsenal that summer for £4.5m and his words will strike a chord with all football fans; “I just didn’t want to miss any.” Fabian Delph was similarly minded when Aston Villa were involved in a relegation fight.
Managers aren’t always as understanding as Wenger. Former Swindon Town boss Paolo Di Canio relieved Paul Caddis of the Robins captaincy after he had become a father. The Italian believed paternal instincts had dimmed Caddis’ footballing desire and will to win.
Caddis left Swindon at the first opportunity, joining Birmingham City in August 2012. Di Canio left as well, in February 2013 when financial difficulties swamped the County Ground.
There are all sorts of legal ramifications for Arsenal as Walcott’s employer but it’s on all of us to hope that the birth goes well for the Walcott’s. Oh, and happens on Sunday…