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5 managers who have exceeded expectations this season 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Shambhu Ajith
Modified 09 Jan 2021, 17:48 IST
Top 5 / Top 10

Several top managers have got sacked already this season and then are these ones who have silenced their critics by surpassing all expectations.

Managing football teams at the highest level is one of the most stressful jobs in the sporting industry. Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a world that demands instant success and quick, easily discernable progress. The pressure this puts on the gaffers is immense and not all of them thrive under it.

The 2020-21 season has been rather unpredictable on several counts and one look at the league tables across Europe will confirm the same. The giants have faltered, the underdogs have prospered and there's no saying how many more surprises we will encounter before this immensely exciting season draws to a close.

Without further ado, let's take a look at five managers who have exceeded expectations so far this season.

#5 Dean Smith (Aston Villa)

Dean Smith
Dean Smith

Aston Villa survived the drop last season by a hair's breadth and were fortunate to have kept hold of their main man Jack Grealish. Dean Smith's men offered no great shakes in the 2019-20 season and we weren't expecting to see them perform as well as they have so far this term.

Aston Villa stunned everyone by starting the season with five straight wins which included a 7-2 hammering of reigning Premier League champions Liverpool at Villa Park. The side has shown significant improvement from last season and they are currently sitting at eighth on the table with 26 points.

Here's the kicker, Aston Villa have two games in hand right now and if they win both of those games, they will have 32 points from 17 games, which will be one less than what league leaders Liverpool and Manchester United have from as many games. To put things into perspective, this is the same side that survived relegation on the last day of the season last time around.


Dean Smith put a lot of work in during the COVID-19 break and reportedly held video reviews with every single player on his squad. He has transformed his side from a rigid, one-dimensional unit into a team that recognizes its opposition's weaknesses whilst playing to their own strengths.

They have become stronger in midfield and seem well-versed in digging their heels in and grinding out results with performances that are not exactly easy on the eye. The likes of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz have added an extra layer of protection to their defence that now sit higher than they used to last season.

Their attack is much better co-ordinated and there is more compactness about the team allowing them to start from deep and foray on counter-attacks in menacing fashion. Dean Smith's in-game management also deserves a lot of praise as Aston Villa are yet to drop points from a winning position in the league so far.

#4 Unai Emery (Villarreal)

Villarreal CF v SD Huesca - La Liga Santander
Villarreal CF v SD Huesca - La Liga Santander

Unai Emery had become almost a comical figure of sorts towards the end of his stint at Arsenal. But Emery's appointment at Emirates always looked like an ill-advised move. He wasn't familiar with the language and was at odds with some of the players and it's fair to say that he was thrown under the bus at Arsenal.

But while his former club is struggling in the Premier League, languishing in the bottom half of the table, Unai Emery's Villarreal are sat comfortably at third on the La Liga table. Towards the end of his stint at Arsenal, everyone was talking about the Gunners because they were so poor.

But now people are talking about Unai Emery's Villarreal because they are excellent at football. He has several excellent individuals operating on different parts of the field like Pau Torres and Gerard Moreno but Emery has also improved the youngsters, drawing excellent performances from the likes of Fer Nino and Yeremi Pino.

It has been quite an unusual La Liga season so far and Emery will do well to ensure that his club can finish in the top four and claim a Champions League berth.

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Published 09 Jan 2021, 17:48 IST
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