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Born on this day in 1998 is a player Sunderland fans haven’t seen all that much of, Arbenit Xhemajli. After a season out through injury, the Kosovan centre-back has been a bit of a mixed bag when he has played, often leaving fans unsure what to expect when he steps on the field.

The 24-year-old started his career in the second tier of Swiss football at Neuchâtel Xamax FCS. He made his debut for the Swiss club in August 2017, starting in a 0-21 away win (yes, that's not a mistype) in the first round of the Swiss Cup, the biggest win in the history of the competition. However, despite this seemingly impressive feat, it did literally come against a bunch of farmers. Montfaucon were the first team from the 9th division to qualify for the Swiss Cup by virtue of winning something known as the 'Fair Play Trophy'. Their team is mostly comprised of farmers and local artisans that play football at the weekend. They play their home games in what amounts to a clearing in a forest sandwiched between cow pastures.

After making 46 appearances across three years for the Swiss club, in the summer of 2020, Arby - as some fans have helpfully shortened his name to, signed a two-year contract with Sunderland. After a promising pre-season, the Kosovan made his Sunderland against Aston Villa U21s in the EFL Trophy group stage. We went on to win that game 8-1, with Xhemajli impressing fans and leaving them hopeful. Another resounding cup victory on his debut against a mismatched team.

However, after a promising start to his Sunderland tenure, the centre-back suffered a knee ligament injury that ruled him out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

After a tough year on the sidelines during the global pandemic, Arby was raring to get back on the pitch this season. However, things have not worked out the way he wished, having only made four appearances for the club this year. His League debut against Wigan was remarkably assured, keeping a clean sheet and marshalling Wigan's potent attack very well. Thrown into the deep end, Arby fared well before fading into relative obscurity.

Internationally, Xhemajli has played five times for Kosovo u21s and made one appearance for the senior team. He made his in a friendly match against Gibraltar. Kosovo won the match 1-0; despite a good performance, Xhemajli has yet to play another game for his national side.

As his contract with the club expires in the summer, Xhemajli will be desperate for more opportunities to prove himself and at still just 24 (even though he looks a lot older) Arby still has potential for the future.

Hopefully fans haven't seen the last Arbenit Xhemajli, our first Kosovan player and certainly the first player to don the red and white stripes whose name begins with an 'X'.

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