Clement, Makelele, positive hires towards a turnaround at Swansea

For the first time all season there is a palpable sense of positive change and progression at Swansea. Under present form, Saturday's match against Arsenal should be cause for serious concern. This club managed to ship three goals against Middlesbrough (tied with Hull for the league's most anemic offence with just 17 goals); there might be no limit to the damage the league's second best attack (42 goals) could do.

However, with ambitious new boss Paul Clement at the helm and a rush of proactivity in the past few days which has seen Premier League legend Claude Makelele installed as an assistant coach, Swansea finally have the feel of a team taking itself seriously once again. That is not to suggest that the short-lived and ill-fated Bob Bradley era was a deliberate act of farce, but sadly a farce is what it became. Swansea's new American owners' gambit didn't work, and it is not hard to imagine that beyond Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan, Clement might have been everyone else's preferred choice all along.

The first match Clement was present for was Swansea's recent 2-1 away victory to Crystal Palace. The new man was officially only at Selhurst Park to watch, but he came down to the touchline to offer some advice and gave what was apparently an effective half-time team talk. Criticism of Swansea's FA Cup defeat at Hull last Saturday seems inappropriate given the result might actually be of greater benefit than detriment to the relegation-threatened club, and over both matches Swansea certainly showed improvement on the field, finally appearing more composed, more coherent and less afraid.

This bodes well for the Swans home tilt this Saturday against Arsenal, a big side which the Welsh club have always fared well against. New signing Luciano Narsingh -- another proactive change for a typically late-acting club reluctant to do January business -- will not be available to play, but his addition should inspire the rest of the squad to prove that they still deserve a starting berth. Other changes will be coming -- interest in Norwich City's Martin Olsson and Tottenham's Tom Carroll seems to be more reality than rumour, while adding a new centre-back seems a near certainty and a new striker might also become a priority if Fernando Llorente leaves for Chelsea.

Makelele's addition to the coaching staff though, might yet have more impact than any new player. Swansea have lacked a "destroyer" style defensive midfielder throughout their Premier League tenure. In Makelele, they now have the man who defined the destroyer archetype. If he can show some of Swansea's lightweight midfield how to protect a defence and influence a game from the engine room, then a lot of the side's defensive woes figure to disappear.

That process might take some time, and it is unlikely Jack Cork will turn into Gilberto Silva by Saturday. That's a shame because Arsenal's perfect passing game will stress test this Swansea defence like no other. The last time the sides met was Bob Bradley's managerial debut, with the American marshalling Swansea to a credible 3-2 away defeat. A draw at home is not outside the realm of possibility given Clement's superior tactical savvy and Swansea's evident renewal of intention.

More than anything, the commitment shown by Clement, Makelele and Narsingh in agreeing to sign to a club many have already written off as relegated should remind everyone in the locker room that this club still has a chance. Clement and Makelele are well established football men who have worked at the very top levels of the game. Narsingh didn't move from PSV because he wants to play Championship football. If these men objectively believe that Swansea is a project worth risking their reputation on, then so should everybody else.

Last season's 12th place finish was achieved by more or less the same squad following a similarly abysmal first-half of the season, and although Ashley Williams was very important, he didn't carry this team single-handedly. This season's Swansea are a sleeper team, a survival dark-horse at the half-way point if such a thing can exist. The club is not overmatched at this level, they have simply underachieved in much the same way as Bournemouth, Burnley and Watford -- who in no way boast superior squads -- have overachieved.

Swansea can give Arsenal the usual run for their money on Saturday, and by doing so can re-establish themselves as a credible side, a team that can play a bit of football and that shouldn't be underestimated. The first half of this season has been as much a write-off as the first half of last. With a new highly regarded coaching staff in place and on-field reinforcements already coming through the doors, the season can still end the same way as the last one did, too.