Catalin Cirjan is making an impression in the upper reaches of the Arsenal academy, after another strong display for the u21s on Tuesday.
The Arsenal u21s’ penalty shootout win over Gillingham on Tuesday may have been slightly overshadowed by the return of Calum Chambers and a start for William Saliba, but Catalin Cirjan certainly deserved to make some headlines with his performance.
Just five minutes into the game, Cirjan gave Arsenal the lead by anticipating a defensive error. Zech Medley cut out Joel Lopez’s cross, but whilst he was taking his first touch, Cirjan was already pouncing to poke the ball into the net.
The midfielder was a constant menace to Gillingham out of possession. He made six tackles on the night, as many as any other Arsenal player made in the entire group stage, and he won seven of his 11 ground duels.
Cirjan’s ability to hold off challenges and retain possession of the ball is certainly a strength.
The 17-year-old was similarly impressive on his last start for the u23s against Blackburn Rovers. He scored a fantastic goal, firing in from distance off the crossbar, his first goal in four games at that level.
It wasn’t all perfect against Gillingham on Tuesday. Cirjan takes risks with his passes, and they don’t always come off. He completed 73% on the night, which isn’t a big problem in itself, just an indicator of where he can improve.
Still, he’s unpredictable and great to watch when he gets it right. He scored the final penalty of the Gillingham shootout with an audacious chip down the middle, staying calm under pressure.
— Sam (@afcsammm) November 10, 2020
It’s early days for Cirjan too, this being his first-ever start against senior opposition in England. He’d already played some Romanian third-tier matches before joining, but that’s not the same.
As he plays with the u21/23s more, he should form a better understanding with his teammates and learn when he can take on those riskier passes. The good news is that he’s certainly moving in the right direction in his development.