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Is Paul Clement the man to keep Swansea in the Premier League?
Last Updated: 03/01/17 5:03pm
Paul Clement has been appointed as Swansea's new head coach. The 44-year-old has a fascinating coaching background, but is he the right man keep the Swans in the Premier League?
After Bob Bradley's ill-fated spell at the Liberty Stadium, it would have been understandable for Swansea to select a successor with rather more Premier League experience. The American lasted just 85 days in the job and left the club bottom of the table, but in Paul Clement they have appointed another coach with plenty to prove.
Clement's coaching CV includes numerous spells working alongside some of the biggest names in football, but for all his time as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, his managerial experience amounts to just eight months in charge of Derby County in the Championship. He remains something of an enigma.
It makes his appointment a gamble, and it's hardly surprising that the bookmakers are giving him little hope of keeping Swansea up. Clement is inheriting a dysfunctional side who have only won three times all season. They are seven points adrift of safety, confidence is on the floor, and in the last six games alone they have conceded 18 goals.
It all adds up to a massive task for such an inexperienced manager, but he returns to England with unfinished business. Clement took over at Derby on a three-year contract in June 2015, only for his tenure to come to an abrupt end following a seven-game winless streak midway through last season.
Clement's brief spell at the iPro Stadium did little to enhance his reputation, but the Rams were actually only five points off the top of the Championship when the axe fell. Just a few weeks earlier, owner Mel Morris had even spoken about Clement as Derby's answer to Sir Alex Ferguson.
The situation was hardly disastrous, and there were mitigating circumstances too. Derby had spent over £20m on nine new signings. The transfer splurge provided a considerable injection of quality, but it also left Clement with an oversized, unfamiliar squad. "A number of big names were bought on big money in a very short period of time," says Sky Sports News HQ reporter Rob Dorsett.
"Clement struggled to make them gel, and he also struggled in his relationship with Morris, who wanted regular input with the manager and team. The two men fell out, and there was only going to be one winner for Derby. Clement was sacked, but you always felt that we hadn't seen his full potential as a manager."
Morris cited style issues, saying Derby's cautious approach under Clement was not in keeping with "the Derby Way", but there were also signs that Clement's highly-regarded coaching techniques were beginning to take effect. Derby only lost once in 19 games between September and December, and an overall record of 13 clean sheets in 30 showed his ability to organise a defence.
"He was a quiet man - always calm and methodical on the training pitch, and in his dealing with the players and media," says Dorsett. "He is clearly a studious man who understands the tactical and coaching side of the game very well. His training sessions were always very precise, well-planned, but maybe lacking a bit in the fun factor."
Clement's style may not have suited Morris and Derby, but his level-headed, no-frills approach might provide the stabilising influence his new side need. Swansea have been defensively shambolic this season and reinforcements are likely to be on the agenda in January, but it is just as important for the new manager to provide structure and organisation.
Swansea need Clement to achieve that sooner rather than later as they battle against the drop, but it is fair to wonder whether coaching at some of the biggest clubs in Europe is the best preparation for a relegation dogfight in the Premier League. Clement, for his part, insists working closely with Ancelotti has equipped him well.
"I was able to see first-hand how Carlo operated, from how he worked with the players, dealt with the politics, how he spoke to the media, and it was all invaluable," he said in an interview with the Guardian during his time at Derby. "I was constantly being tested. Coming through that gave me a lot of belief that I could do this. I've learned plenty."
Clement didn't get much time to prove it at Derby, and his first Premier League job is an even more difficult challenge. For Swansea, it's a gamble. For Clement, it's an opportunity which could make or break his managerial aspirations.