Calin Calaidjoglu – U21 Talent Watch – Player Analysis

After catching the eye for Montreal Impact’s Academy in 2018, the career of future Canadian international Calin Calaidjoglu has gone quietly under the radar. Currently plying his trade in his native Moldova, that much is understandable. But Calaidjoglu recently impressed in his side’s UEFA Conference League tie against Slovenian side NS Mura, and has enjoyed a bright start to the 2022-23 season. While CPL clubs tend to recruit even younger players, the 21-year-old would have plenty to offer if a move were to be made back home. In this tactical analysis, we break down the strengths and weaknesses of Calin Calaidjoglu at the age of 21, and the CPL clubs that would most benefit from his playing style. Here is our analysis!

STYLE OF PLAY

Plying his trade in Moldova for Sfîntul Gheorghe, Calaidjoglu currently operates as an ‘attacking midfielder’ in a 4-2-3-1 system. While evidently capable of creating chances, he fulfills a role that requires him to burst up the field on the dribble, dangle his way around opponents, and beat players through his supersonic skill, rather than creativity.

The Canadian boasts an incisive dribbling style that allows him to keep control in tight spaces, and work his way out of trouble when double-teamed. If he can continue to learn when to showcase his trickery and when to play it simple, Calaidjoglu will only add more of a cutting edge to his play. Often times he’s trying to do the most difficult pass in the shortest amount of time, rushing his decisions on the ball. Scanning the field more would allow the Canadian more time and space to see his options and adjust accordingly.

In defensive phases, the 21-year-old midfielder holds his own with his intense pressing style. He often positions himself in the ’10’ role in a natural 4-2-3-1 press, but can also slot into central midfield as part of a defensive midfield three for his club.

When looking at close comparisons, he reminds me closely of Kamron Habibullah. The Whitecaps Academy product excels in tight spaces, dominates his dribbles, and has the exact same low centre of gravity that allows for superior close control. We classify Habibullah as a ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ due to his tendency to drive possession forward on the wing, but he’s equally capable of fulfilling the role of a ’10’. Since Habibullah is set to return from loan in December 2022, Calin Calaidjoglu could be a natural replacement.

ATTACKING ABILITY

Attacking phases are where Calin Calaidjoglu thrives, bringing his close control and exceptional dynamism to life. Again, he’s not a particularly incisive passer of the ball and lacks that true cutting edge when it comes to creativity. His role is also just more about dynamism on and off the ball than creating chances for fun, and he fulfills that function to great effect.

In fact, Calaidjoglu’s off-the-ball movement is probably the most fascinating facet of his game. He’s astute in recognizing pockets of space to advance into, setting himself up to receive the ball, and importantly – dismarking from his opponents.

Here we present two wonderful examples where Calaidjoglu dismarks himself from his marker on throw-ins. The Moldovan midfielder essentially accomplishes everything I always try and tell youth players when moving off the ball from throw-ins. Appear disengaged, and then suddenly flick on like the switch of a light. With a quick shuffle of the feet, the next step becomes about approaching the ball in a manner that allows the body to receive away from the defender, something Calaidjoglu wonderfully accomplishes in both clips.

In fact, the Sfîntul Gheorghe midfielder showcases his ability to not only receive in tight spaces, but to play out of trouble with defenders closely following his tracks. This close control can then manifest in powerful dribbling up the field in transition, even if his passing may lack that cutting edge from time to time.

But his outstanding movement off the ball also manifests in positive ways for his team to progress up the pitch, and create chances in the final third.

As the ball travels to his left-fullback, Calaidjoglu positions himself in between defenders to cause a diffusion of responsibility. He then instinctively knows exactly where to move, recognizing the body positioning of his left wing teammate, moving toward the ball. Calaidjoglu knows that the defender is likely to follow his teammate in fear of them receiving the ball, opening up space in behind. That’s exactly where Calaidjoglu receives, before breaking away.

This kind of movement showcases Calaidjoglu’s cleverness in finding space to receive, something that would be vitally important in a high-flying Pacific team that prioritizes attacking rotations. Here’s another great example of the Canadian’s ability to dismark himself from an opponent, creating half a yard for himself to strike the ball from range.

The 21-year-old loves to strike from distance and work the keeper, but he hasn’t caught a ball any sweeter than this all season. When you watch the clip back again, you’ll see his incisive timing take center stage. He perfectly positions himself on the blindside of the nearest marking player, and as the defender gets sidetracked by watching the ball, he sprints across his backside to receive in an open pocket of space. If Calaidjoglu could just implement this level of expert timing with his passing, he’d be an easy buy for any CPL team.

But that’s where the Moldovan midfielder still needs to develop his game. He often lacks the cutting edge when it comes to creating chances, particularly in achieving the right mix of timing, and weight of pass. In some ways this is a result of his desire to play quickly and rush his decision making processes. This works wondrously well when dribbling at the opposition and pulling defenders out of position, but less so in finding teammates in space.

The above clip showcases a moment of transition where Calaidjoglu could have used his dribbling power to advance further, draw the opposition out, and then play the pass into the vacated space for his striker. Unfortunately, he rushed the pass, and completely overcooked the delivery. This skill is therefore something a new club like Pacific or Edmonton would need to develop in helping the midfielder best serve those further forward. That skill becomes even more imperative when you consider a player in his ‘number 10’ position often operates as the last link in setting up chances.

More positively, Calaidjoglu more than handles his own when delivering from a dead-ball, fantastically achieving the right mix of weight and power on his set-piece deliveries for Sfîntul Gheorghe.

This showcases that it’s not all doom and gloom from the Sfîntul Gheorghe midfielder when it comes to long passing. It’s more a matter of composure rather than technical quality, and that much should be encouraging for a CPL side scouting his talent.

In total, Calaidjoglu’s exceptional off-the-ball movement, packed with his close control and ability to strike from range, make him a lethal weapon for any team to have at their disposal.

DEFENSIVE DYNAMISM

If I had you conjure up hypothetical words to describe Calaidjoglu’s defensive aptitude based off his attacking verve, you’d likely get most of the descriptors spot on. Like his attacking play, Calaidjoglu operates with a sense of intensity and raw running power that just needs to be honed in. It often serves him well in moments of pressing and winning the ball off unsuspecting opponents. But it also often serves him unwell in moments of poor angling in his approach, as he flies in with a lack of control and coordination.

He can easily be fooled in situations like this where an opponent fakes a cross, and then immediately blows by him. At 5’6 with a meek frame, Calaidjoglu can also find himself easily bullied off the ball, and second best in defensive duels. That much might be a reality for the best part of the midfielder’s career, but more work can be done on the training pitch to fix up those angles when approaching ball carriers.

The second clip here showcases a moment where Calaidjoglu did well to push the carrier wide, but then reverted into a wrong running stance, running beside the player rather than angled toward the touchline. His teammate won the ball from a quick reaction, but the Moldovan could have done more to arch his run differently, and force his man away from the space ahead.

Nevertheless, what he lacks in raw strength, the 21-year-old certainly makes up for in hunger. There are a countless number of examples from this season where the Moldovan midfielder pressures his opponent with so much intensity, that they simply have no time to react.

Equally capable of slotting into a three-man-midfield or pressing from the front as the team’s unequivocal ‘number 10’, the Sfîntul Gheorghe man always remains switched on in defensive phases, even if not the most technically savvy in out of possession phases of play.

If he can then bring this level of intensity to a greater understanding of the proper way to angle his approach, he will immediately improve his all-around game.

The above example showcases a manager’s dream when it comes to pressing, where the player receiving the ball completely failed in his scanning of the field, and Calaidjoglu’s ferocity took full advantage in setting up a goal. This is one more reason why the Moldovan midfielder would have the potential to seamlessly transition back to Canada, and operate in a team that deploys an intense defensive style like Valour.

STYLISTIC FIT

When comparing the styles of play to all CPL clubs and the current needs of the teams around the league, Calin Calaidjoglu would likely work best as a Habibullah substitute at Pacific, a Sean Rea replacement in Valour’s future fortunes, or a half-space roamer in FC Edmonton’s attacking trio.

Pacific just lost their star striker in the form of Alejandro Diaz, and played their first match in his absence without a recognized striker. Their attention might therefore be more on the ‘number 9’ position. But Pacific thrive in attacking phases through their intelligent positional rotation and movement off-the-ball. Players like Manny Aparicio, Joshua Heard, Marco Bustos and Olakunle Dada-Luke continously adjust for the positioning of one another, and that is where Calaidjoglu also comes to life.

His ability to dismark from an opponent could allow Pacific more attacking variety in their play, particularly in breaking through the centre of the pitch. They often prioritize the wings and their fantastic wide overloads from the Bustos-Kunle connection, before delivering something spectacular for Manny Aparicio to run onto at the end of a move. The fun part about a player like Habibullah is that he can create more moments of dynamism through the centre of the park, allowing the wing-backs to continue flying high on both sides. Calin Calaidjoglu could add some attacking incisiveness to the team in that regard, particularly just in finding alternative routes to score goals.

Valour FC will also be in need of a Sean Rea replacement in time, and in signing Calin Calaidjoglu, they’d likely be taking somewhat of a step down. Rea just so happens to be one of the most brilliant playmakers in the league, on top of possessing that same level of close control precision on the ball as the Moldovan-born midfielder.

In signing the 21-year-old, Valour would instead be gaining a player who knows exactly what pockets of space to envelop, and one that perfectly fits their intense style of play in all phases of the game. He’s also akin to a man they have in the form of Matty Catavolo, which would prove useful in serving as another body-double.

FC Edmonton would be a third pick for the signing of the Canadian youngster, as someone who could operate in the half-spaces if Koch’s team were able to expand into a more attack-minded 3-4-2-1. He’d be perfect in operating as an ‘Inverted Winger’ in that system, providing a greater cutting edge to the team in the final third. He offers the same confidence in driving the team forward as Gabriel Bitar, just in a different, more advanced position.

Calin Calaidjoglu could then have more of a free role in attack, without ever forgetting about the necessary hunger and desire to win the ball back out of possession – where Edmonton spend the majority of their minutes. At a transfer value of €50,000 according to Transfermarkt, the Canadian youth product may be out of the Eddies’ budget, but would be well worth the gamble.

Regardless of where he could end up, CPL clubs should be keeping an eye on the development of the 21-year-old this season, and the potential room for improvement in his passing precision, and angle of approach in defensive phases. If he can add these subtle tweaks to an already impressive set of skills, Calin Calaidjoglu could be destined for a bright future in the game.


So there it is! An analysis of Canadian youngster Calin Calaidjoglu, as he plies his trade over in Moldova for FC Sfîntul Gheorghe. Be sure to check out more of our CANPL related articles, more Player Analyses, and don’t miss out on our social media happenings over at @desmondrhys and @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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