Philippe Clement described the season as a marathon and not a sprint. Rangers are off and into their stride, with the Premiership title alive.

Clement arrived at Ibrox with that target in his mind. He was never going to make bold public proclamations, but the 49-year-old had to believe that Rangers were potential champions rather than hopeful challengers. If he did not, there would have been no point in him coming to Glasgow.

Clement arrived in the city as a winner. His track record of successes with Genk and Club Brugge were proof of that, with his second title at the Jan Breydel Stadium evidence that he could inspire a team to climb another mountain having reached the summit the previous term. Sources suggest that fact was key in his emergence as the leading candidate. His first task with Rangers is, of course, to scale the heights first and foremost.

The Belgian's first seven matches have come in just four weeks across three competitions. Six have been won as 18 goals have been scored and just three conceded. The seven-point deficit to Celtic now stands at eight but Rangers have a game in hand to come and the next tranche of fixtures will define how high Rangers can set the bar during the second half of the season.

“I think one thing, the major thing, for the next weeks and maybe months, we will see, is that we need to be focused on ourselves,” Clement said when asked about the challenge of overcoming Celtic during his first press conference. “For me, a season is like a marathon and it is no use to look at this guy that is running in front of you all the time and then try to chase it with one big sprint and then not have the legs to do the marathon and to kill yourself.”

The black-and-white statistics tell the story of Clement’s first month in charge, but his impact is more nuanced, more profound, than a run of results that has seen Hearts beaten twice and Hibernian, Sparta Prague, Dundee and Livingston overcome.

READ MORE: Rangers accounts assessed after Ibrox board post operating profit

His players have spoken of standards being raised, of the squad being fitter and stronger. Others have praised the clarity of Clement’s messages and the style of play that is being implemented, while the uplift in the mood around Auchenhowie and Ibrox has been noticeable. The same can be said for the morale of a support that has bought into Clement’s words and his actions.

The appointment of Clement as Michael Beale’s successor was not a populist move and attempted vote-winning call from the Ibrox board. It was a process that saw two clear candidates emerge and the rank and file were split on the merits of Clement and Kevin Muscat. Time will tell if Clement was indeed the right pick but the signs so far have been encouraging and a fan base that were disillusioned and disenfranchised during the final weeks of Beale’s tenure have been revitalised.

Clement made an instant impression before a ball was kicked. As he sat alongside James Bisgrove, the chief executive officer, at his unveiling in the Blue Room, he cut a cool, calm and composed figure. There was an edge to him too.

Rangers Review: Philippe Clement

His imposing physical frame gave him an obvious stature, but it was the way in which he spoke that gave Clement gravitas. There was no bluster, no clichés, no pandering to the fans with talk of the Ibrox atmosphere or the history of the club. Whenever the support has been mentioned since, it has been in relation to the ‘synergy’ between those in the stands and those on the pitch and Clement highlighted that point as the most significant to emerge from the victory over Sparta Prague last Thursday evening.

The 2-1 win was evidence of the quality and character that Clement had been able to uncover within the squad he inherited from Beale and of the belief that supporters have in them. Given the situation the former Monaco manager walked into just four weeks previously, both factors are remarkable.

READ MORE: Ross McCausland's Rangers story revealed after dream Clement start

Speaking ahead of the trip to Livingston on Sunday, Clement stated that the reaction of his players was the best that he had seen at any club as he praised the group for the manner in which they have taken on board his words and put them into action. He has defined his achievements and his ambitions as a ‘story’. Clement is the main protagonist but the heroes have emerged as the weeks have progressed, with the likes of John Lundstram and Danilo coming to the fore as Jack Butland has made an immediate impression and James Tavernier has continued to silence his critics.

The individual gains have resulted in collective improvements and there is an identifiable style about Rangers for the first time this season. Clement wants to create a ‘machine’ at Ibrox and he is doing so at present with components that he has been given and parts that perhaps do not fit his blueprint. Come January, the recruitment of a right-sided forward, one with technical ability as well as a turn of foot, and a striker are the obvious recruits to make the squad more in line with Clement’s philosophy.

Over the next month, he will do what he has done during the last four weeks and make use of what he has. His frustrations at the Europa League list have been evident, but not as much so as his views on the conditioning of the players and the injury-ravaged squad he found on his first day at Auchenhowie.

Rangers Review: Rangers manager Phillipe Clement has quickly gained the respect of his players.

That particular puzzle has been solved on each occasion. The win over Sparta saw Rangers produce their finest half of Clement’s reign, while a night of drama and delays at Dens Park ended with Dundee being dispatched in clinical fashion. The first success against Hearts saw decibel and adrenaline levels peak but the 90 minutes that set up a shot at the Viaplay Cup silverware were far more straightforward.

It was after that fixture that Clement’s mentality came to the fore once again. Just minutes after the whistle, his attentions had already turned to the make-or-break Group C tie at Ibrox.

“We have to continue like that and not go into a mode of satisfaction,” Clement said. “That is the big danger now. The players can be satisfied this evening and happy and enjoy that time with their family but from tomorrow I expect everybody to be focused again towards Prague. That is football. OK, we are in a final but if you are in a final, a semi-final or quarter-final, it doesn’t make a difference. In the end, it is about winning something. We are not there yet.”

Journeys to Prague and Livingston and a debut at home to Hibernian have also been negotiated as Clement has studied his staff and his players during what he has defined as an ‘observation period’. His first weeks have been hectic but enlightening, a time of positives and platitudes as performances have been produced and results have been earned. Each challenge and circumstance has differed but the threads of Clement's influence have been weaved on each occasion.

READ MORE: Philippe Clement makes Rangers improvement call after impressive start

The dominant style of play that Clement was renowned for and that he promised has been evident thus far. Rangers are pressing higher and operating with an increased tempo and work rate in a system that allows creative talents to flourish whilst maintaining a defensive structure. The hope, the need, is that such gains cannot just be put down to the bounce that new managers so often elicit from a squad upon their appointment. There has been enough in what has been seen to date to suggest that Clement is capable of lasting the distance rather than just bursting out of the blocks.

Rangers clearly remain a work in progress but a side that were so often lacking in ideas and identity under Beale has been transformed. Questions over the abilities of some remain pertinent, of course, and Clement has not cured all of the ills at Ibrox. As he has said himself, he is not Harry Potter. Clement has worked some of his magic on Rangers to date, however.

That learning process will continue over the international break as the likes of John Souttar, Nicolas Raskin and Rabbi Matondo work towards a return to action. Those who have departed for international duty will be expected to pick up where they left off, while others have the chance to regroup or recharge after being given personalised fitness schedules to work through during their three days off over the fortnight hiatus.

It has been evident since the first day that Clement is not the kind of character to get too far ahead of himself. He will surely be satisfied with the job that has been done to date but that will not cloud his judgement over what still needs to be done at Ibrox. He can be pleased with where Rangers are, yet he will never lose sight of where they must get to and the opportunity to work with his players on the pitches at Auchenhowie rather than in the analysis room will be beneficial.

“It feels like six months,” Clement joked when asked how he reflected on his first month in charge following the win on Sunday. “It's difficult to say because I don't have expectations, I live from day to day. If I step into a club I take in a lot of information and watch all the games, you get an idea of the potential of the group Then you start working with people. But I'm not someone who has a fixed idea, also now, about players. You can also have positive surprises and I love when players go beyond expectation. I hope to see a lot of those next couple of months.”

Clement has Rangers into their stride already. If the pace can be maintained, the finishing line will offer a shot at glory during the sprint finish in the Premiership.